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Author Topic: LT - Budget Committee Reverses Decision, Recommends Giving Grant to Red Cross  (Read 1447 times)
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« on: September 04, 2008, 12:09:15 PM »

from the Londonerry Times

Budget Committee Reverses Decision, Recommends Giving Grant to Red Cross
April Guilmet
Londonderry Times

After a widely publicized refusal to recommend a grant of $1,400 to the Greater Manchester Red Cross chapter, the town budget committee had a change of heart at last week’s meeting, unanimously approving the donation after hearing a presentation given by Red Cross representatives.

At the end of the evening, most committee members agreed, all they wanted was 10 minutes of the charity’s time.

After Red Cross representatives failed to attend the July 24 budget committee meeting, members denied the organization’s request for $1,400 in funding.

However, committee members emphasized that the decision was mostly based on the need to support groups serving the most Londonderry residents, a difficult decision considering the current economic climate.

One dozen other local organizations received funding that matched or exceeded what they’d been given the previous year.

Greater Manchester Red Cross executive director Lisa Michaud previously said the group planned on sending a representative to that meeting, but was unable to do so due to unforeseen disaster circumstances: assisting victims of a tornado in nearby Deerfield.

“We were fully prepared to be there, but when it came down to it, we were all needed out in the fields,” said Michaud.

On Aug. 28, Red Cross emergency services director Mike Fawcett and development assistant Betty Munschy appealed to the budget committee at its monthly meeting.

Fawcett noted that the Red Cross receives no federal funding and relies on grants, municipal and public donations in order to assist the communities it serves. The local Red Cross branch currently serves 17 communities and upwards of 300,000 people.

“Wherever disaster strikes, the Red Cross is there to provide immediate emergency assistance: food, clothing and shelter,” Fawcett emphasized. He added that the organization also provides financial gifts so victims can meet their immediate needs, as well as emergency shelter.

Fawcett noted that 100 percent of the $1,400 requested would ultimately assist disaster victims in Londonderry and surrounding communities.

“We go to support the fire department if it’s a hot day or a cold night,” Fawcett said. “We hold hands with our partner agents so if something happens, we make sure they sign releases of confidential information so any other assistance needed can be provided by other agencies.”

Fawcett noted the organization offers emergency training as well, working in conjunction with the Londonderry ALERT community emergency response group. “In the past, we’ve worked with them in an emergency shelter situation. They know us and they know our lingo,” he said. “We’re extremely grateful to the community to allow us to support them.”

Budget committee member Deborah Nowicki offered an apology “on behalf of the town of Londonderry,” adding that she thought the previous recommendation not to fund the Red Cross was “blown out of proportion.”

“Our job here is to make a recommendation to the town council. We did not have any information to make that recommendation (last month),” Nowicki said. “It is my understanding that the Red Cross over the years did not attend meetings and we thank you for attending tonight. Our best interest here is for looking out for the taxpayers and asking questions.”

Fawcett noted that the Red Cross is under new leadership. In July 2007, Michaud stepped in as interim executive director and ultimately became executive director.

“She has changed our relationships for the better,” Fawcett said noting that Michaud did, indeed, attend a Londonderry budget committee meeting this past winter, where she introduced herself to the members.

“We have full intention of attending meetings,” Fawcett said. “Unfortunately, we do have a storm situation in the Gulf right now.”

“I’d love to see this relationship flourish in the future because the Red Cross is very important to the town of Londonderry,” Nowicki responded. “We applaud you coming, and we welcome you time and time again.”

Committee chairman Jay Hooley noted that the Red Cross had previously attempted to correspond with town officials, including town manager David Caron. Such attempts weren’t noted at last month’s meeting, he said, due to faulty electronic correspondence, which has since been documented.

Hooley said he had copies of the original correspondence.

Munschy said the donation request was based on the percentage of Londonderry’s population and how it figures in with the other 16 towns the local Red Cross serves. She also considered a history of what the town has donated in the past.

During the past fiscal year, the Red Cross operated on a total budget of $700,000, with $216,000 as the budget for emergency services.

On average, the organization responds to one fire every nine days, Munschy said.

She was uncertain of the specific amount of donations stemming from people in Londonderry, but said its citizens had been very generous.

In a written letter, committee member Tom Dolan, who was unable to attend last week’s meeting, applauded the Red Cross for its community service.

“It is our town government’s policy to remember the fact that these funds come from our hardworking residents of Londonderry. I find it very positive that you’re here,” Dolan wrote. “I would hope that we could also use this public opportunity to express our appreciation to all the Red Cross volunteers for their continued service. We only ask for 10 minutes once every two years.”

Glenn Douglas
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