Red Cross actions defended

Dear Editor:

We were disappointed by your misleading editorial of  September 22, 2010, which does a disservice to your readers by implying that the American Red Cross has ceased operations in New Albany.

Contrary to your assertions, our plan to reorganize the American Red Cross structure has been designed over many months and involved Red Cross leadership from all over Mississippi. 
Every organization has been affected by the down economy; the Red Cross is no exception.  In order to continue to operate, we must use our donor dollars effectively  while contending with specific Mississippi issues such as large rural areas of the state with high disaster risk but limited fundraising capacity, and escalating costs associated with providing emergency services statewide. 
  When a family needs assistance after a fire, we are there.  When a soldier’s family needs to send an emergency communication, we are there.  When people require life-saving training in CPR and first aid, we are there.
Our office at 111 N. Camp St. in New Albany will remain our office although it will be staffed by volunteers instead of a paid employee.  By working together and sharing resources, Red Cross units will be able to retain their grassroots identities.  The new structure creates a 16-county Chapter jurisdiction, which includes five offices, no office any less valuable than another.   
We are especially disappointed by the description of our treatment of Sally Zemek, our former employee.  The Red Cross respects all staff and volunteers and fully recognizes that staff and volunteers are our greatest assets. Accordingly, we treat each one with the greatest respect and appreciation.  
 Despite your conclusion regarding our reputation, our research shows that the American Red Cross is consistently ranked by Americans as one of the nation’s most trusted organizations.  Change is never easy, but it is necessary for us to foster a cost-conscious culture and protect our ability to meet the demands of the Red Cross mission in Union County and all across the Magnolia State.

Mark J. Smith
American Red Cross of Mississippi