Red Cross initiatives affecting local chapter
Executive Director David Diestler is the latest to lose his job. Five other staff members were let go before him.
"The signs were there. We were slowly changing and everything was going away," Diestler said.
The South Central Wisconsin Chapter serves Rock, Green and Jefferson counties plus the cities of Whitewater and South, Beloit, Ill.
When Diestler was hired in July 2008, the chapter had five full-time and two part-time staff.
When he leaves within the next 60 days, only one full-time staff person will remain in the chapter's main office at 211 N. Parker Drive, he said.
Diestler said the chapter's services of providing relief to victims of disasters and helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies will continue.
"We'll be having the same services—monthly blood drives, CPR, First Aid, AED and babysitting classes plus the disaster team—it just will be provided from a different area because Madison (Badger Chapter staff) will come done and provide them," he said.
"The Badger Chapter is going to be the overarching authority of this area, and some services provided here will be under its umbrella," Rundle said.
Diestler isn't sure what will happen with the chapter's fleet of five vehicles.
"We probably have at least one or two vehicles too many. So they may get reutilized somewhere else in the region," he said.
Lisa Rebman, who now is in charge of health and safety, will run all of the classes, splitting her time between Janesville and the Beloit branch office, which has no staff, Diestler said.
"I feel sorry for Lisa, because she's going to have her hands full. We get many phone calls and are a busy operation. Since the end of June, we've had less people here and more to do. It's been very hard to get everything done and stay on top of everything. Now with just one person here, it's going to be very difficult," he said.
Staff at the Badger Chapter in Madison will provide support staff for Rebman on some days, Diestler said.
The local chapter's Fort Atkinson and Monroe offices closed in 2009, but people in those communities still are getting Red Cross services, he said.
Diestler believes the expected changes will make the Red Cross stronger.
Mike Rundle, chairman of the local chapter's board of directors, isn't so sure.
"We keep hearing that we'll remain a separate entity, that we want you and need you, yet the actions don't seem to follow the words," he said.
Diestler said the local chapter's board of directors is no longer a governing board and became an advisory board in 2009 with a push to be more involved in fundraising.
Since then, Rundle said "there's a disconnect between what we hear and what we see, and that worries myself and the other board members to the point that we're not sure what our role is going to continue to be or need to be in regards to the chapter down here. That's always been the big question in our minds lately."
The American Red Cross South Central Wisconsin Chapter, 211 N. Parker Drive, Janesville, has a new phone number. It is 1-877-618-6628.
Health and Safety Manager Lisa Rebman can be reached (608) 232-5791 or e-mailed at email@example.com.