Freeborn County Red Cross office to close

Published 1:34 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In an attempt to consolidate its operations, the American Red Cross is closing its Freeborn County office, effective Friday.

The Freeborn-Mower chapter will be headquartered in Austin, under the direction of Executive Director Elaine Hansen, according to a news release. The position of emergency services coordinator held by Chris Avery at the Freeborn County office in Albert Lea has been eliminated.

“We are so grateful for Chris’s many years of service, and that’s part of what made this decision so difficult because it involves losing a longtime employee and closing a building that has served us well,” said Melanie Tschida, director of the southern Minnesota region, headquartered in Rochester. “In this situation, we determined that consolidating to one location was necessary to focus more of our limited resources on programs and services that help people in need.”

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The release stated similar consolidations are happening across the region as the Red Cross is working to be more efficient. The Freeborn-Mower chapter used to be made up of two chapters — one for each county — until they consolidated into one in September of 2011.

Tschida said several factors were taken into consideration when deciding which building to close.

The Austin office, at 305 Fourth Ave. NW, is downtown and gets a lot of drive-by and walk-in traffic, she said. In comparison, the Albert Lea office, at 1608 W. Fountain St., is in a residential neighborhood and is the last remnant of the former West Clinic. There were also more volunteers in Mower County.

Though the office will be in Austin, the release stated the board of directors will continue to have representation from both counties, and all money raised in both counties will be used to support the delivery of services in the area.

“Our highest priority will be to ensure that we continue providing great service in these communities,” Tschida said. “People can still depend on the Red Cross for disaster response, health and safety courses, emergency communications for members of our military and blood drives.”

The organization will next determine what to do with the contents of the Albert Lea building.

“Then we will most likely put the building up for sale,” Tschida said.

She did not have a timeline for when this would take place, but she noted that some supplies and a trailer will likely stay in Albert Lea.

The Red Cross responds to small and large disasters, providing food, water, clothing and mental health counseling to victims of the disasters. It also organizes blood drives and provides CPR, first aid and water safety classes, much through donations from the public.

The Austin office can be reached at 507-437-4589. Hansen was unable to be reached for comment.