Red Cross closing will be felt by many


Posted: Friday, October 19, 2007

Tragedy has struck. But this time the call of "Help is on the way" has a new meaning.

Although help is still on the way, it may be a little more impersonal or delayed. But it will be there, so we're told.

The Red Cross of Alaska has closed its Kenai doors. The reason is something that's becoming all too familiar on the Kenai Peninsula and everywhere else these days: insufficient funds to keep up with expenses.

"Expenses just exceed revenue, it's just simply that," we were told by Michelle Houlihan, chief executive officer for the Red Cross of Alaska.

It's pretty sad when even the nonprofits can't keep up with the economy, but that appears to be the latest trend. When hard times hit, they aren't at all particular about who they affect, unfortunately.

Cuts are being made including that of Annette Hakkinen's position as the Kenai program manager. Hakkinen has held the position for five years, nearly to the day, offering a service that many would be lost without. Her job was to make sure volunteers were in the right place at the right time, providing food, shelter, clothing, whatever was necessary to help people get through their disaster a fire, a flood, an earthquake.

Now we're told the help will still be there for us, only it will come without the face-to-face interaction. A hotel reservation will be made or a request made to others to help with food and clothing. There aren't many of us who don't appreciate having someone to talk to or tell us that everything will be OK after something happens to us, especially things out of our control. From now on, though, that voice may be over the phone.

While this is truly impersonal, we also understand the business side of taking care of others. We just don't like it when the cuts come into our neighborhoods and affect our lives.

We aren't the only ones taken aback by this decision. We tend to forget there are others who rely heavily on the Red Cross to be there emergency responders. How comforting it must have been for them to know that while they fight the fire or battle flooding waters, the Red Cross was behind them taking care of the victims.

"There's certain things in an emergency that we can provide and they can provide. They were just a part of every disaster plan and any type of mitigation efforts that involved displaced families or people," Kenai Fire Chief Mike Tilly told us.

Central Emergency Services also will feel the loss of an immediate response, said Fire Marshal Gary Hale.

"They've been so cooperative in making sure the people have a place to stay and they at least have some clothes on their backs. This is going to be devastating down here," he said.

The Red Cross' absence in Kenai definitely will be felt, but we wonder how much we'll notice the change because we live in an area where our communities include many caring people and organizations that will pick up the slack. We still have the ability to provide what others need in their time of need.

We understand that in situations like this, changes are necessary and decisions have to be made. And we know the Red Cross isn't forsaking us. Things will just be a little different from now on, that's all.

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