Executive director: Red Cross is here to serve

The American Red Cross serving Columbiana County is now part of the Mahoning Valley Chapter, but according to Karen Conklin, not that much has changed – the agency will continue the work it’s been doing all along.

“We really want the community to know their Red Cross is here,” she said during a recent interview.

Conklin serves as executive director of the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region Mahoning Valley Chapter, which covers Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. The office is located in Liberty Township, at 3530 Belmont Ave., Suite 7, Youngstown, and can be reached at 330-392-2551. There’s also the website at www.mahoning.redcross.org.

At one time, there were individual offices, sometimes more than one, in each county, including an office in Salem and in East Liverpool. Those offices closed and eventually Columbiana County fell under the umbrella of the Stark County Chapter. The Mahoning County Chapter and Trumbull County Chapter merged in 2010 to form the Mahoning Valley Chapter.

Earlier this year, a realignment moved Columbiana County into the Mahoning Valley Chapter. Conklin said the American Red Cross is all about the quickest and most effective way to reach people. With the state Route 11 corridor connecting the three counties, there was a strong case for moving Columbiana County into the Mahoning Valley Chapter.

Conklin said there was a misconception that when the Salem and East Liverpool offices were taken out, the American Red Cross was gone, but that was not the case.

Even without an office, the emergency response continued, blood drives continued, health and safety classes continued and services to military families continued.

“The Disaster Action Team in Columbiana County has been thought of as one of the best in the country,” she said.

According to Conklin, 91 cents of every dollar donated to the American Red Cross goes to help victims. In order to work smarter with the money available, which comes exclusively from donations, they reduced the number of chapters which enabled a reduction in the number of employees.

For disaster response and preparedness, the American Red Cross has trained volunteers who respond at a moment’s notice. They can set up a shelter, provide mobile or fixed feeding operations, staff local government emergency operations centers and coordinate with local government and other relief agencies, assess the impact of a disaster and coordinate disaster fundraising activities.

Locally, the American Red Cross has served local families affected by fires, power outages and flooding by setting up shelters, providing food, providing emergency clothing assistance and emergency financial assistance and counseling. The Red Cross can also provide help for lost dentures, glasses or prescriptions due to disaster and help find temporary housing.

Besides emergency response and overseeing blood donor operations, the agency provides health and safety courses and Nurse Assistant Training classes and offers free Red Cross Safety apps for cellular phones.

Conklin said a key service they provide that many may not be aware of is the service to military members, veterans and their families. The Mahoning Valley Chapter fields at least military call per day. The agency founded by the Civil War nurse Clara Barton began on a battlefield and has continued keeping military families connected and getting the help they need.

In a bit of trivia, she said the woman who took over the agency after Clara Barton was Mabel Boardman who was from Boardman.

“We are the only organization authorized by the Department of Defense to find a soldier anywhere in the world,” Conklin said.

The agency provides emergency communication, family follow-ups, financial assistance, suicide prevention, family resiliency activities and pre-deployment and reconnection workshops. She noted that every recruit from Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties fills out a Red Cross family emergency card sent from all branches of the military to the Mahoning Valley Chapter. Trainings are held for soldiers and their families.

The agency is always looking for volunteers and relies on them heavily. Just call the office at 330-392-2551 for information. Conklin said “it’s a great place for adrenaline junkies.”

Colleen Dattilio, chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross of the Mahoning Valley, is a Columbiana County resident who works for the Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority. She said the agency relies on the generosity of volunteers in the community, whether it’s their time or their donations. The agency receives a small percentage of funding from the United Way, with donations from foundations, businesses and individuals and fundraisers.

The Mahoning Valley Chapter is in the process of soliciting donations now and has a major fundraising event coming up. The Fourth Annual Acts of Courage event is set for June 12 to honor people who have saved a life and the agency is looking for sponsorships.

Marty McCloud serves as the major gift officer in the Mahoning Valley Chapter office and said donations are tax-deductible. Conklin also said donors making gifts of $10,000 or more to the American Red Cross will have their name put on a plaque in Washington, D.C.

Dattilio, of New Waterford, said the Mahoning Valley Chapter is thrilled to have the opportunity to serve Columbiana County. She’s not the only member of the board who resides in Columbiana County, with Jon Arnold of Salem and Jan Rochette of Columbiana also members.