A conversation with Maria Devlin, Chief Executive Officer
This year is one of celebration for the NH/VT Chapter of the American Red Cross. They are celebrating their centennial, the chapter having been created in 1917.
We have Clara Barton to thank for founding the American Red Cross back in 1881 to serve people in need. While the Red Cross adapts to the changing needs of the people they serve, they remain true to their roots, which is to help those affected by emergencies and to empower individuals and communities to recover after such an emergency.
We spoke with Maria Devlin recently, who is CEO of the American Red Cross of NH and Vermont and a new member of NHBSR, to learn more about their regional work, as well as to get sense of what is happening nationally and internationally. Maria has been the Chief Executive Officer of the NH Chapter since 2008. In 2014 she was appointed CEO of the newly merged NH and Vermont regions. You can tell from the enthusiasm in her voice, as well as looking at her resume that Maria is deeply committed to her work which serves individuals and groups in need. When asked what drew her to the Red Cross, she answered that she saw and ad and decided to apply. The work of the Red Cross was well known to her and she appreciated that the work touches all people. Maria says it was serendipity.
In the NH/VT Chapter Maria has a staff of 24 across the two states and 1200 volunteers. The services offered are community based so Maria and her team work with local community organizations to identify what is needed and where. Maria says that her team of volunteers are truly who make all that they do possible and that working with a volunteer led organization is amazing. She shares that the volunteers find their joy in helping in the community where they live. Partnering with local organizations allows the Red Cross to tap into those who know their communities best thereby identifying where the need is. The Red Cross is part of the 911 system as well as the dispatch service with the fire departments so they are aware of all emergencies. Such was the case with the fire at the State Street Salon in Portsmouth this Spring. The Red Cross was on the scene to support all of those affected by the fire and are still working with helping families that were affected. They stay involved until their services are no longer needed.
One of the Red Cross’s core programs is blood services, which accounts for 40% of the blood supply in the US. NH/VT provided 95,000 units last year. All hospitals in NH and VT receive blood from the Red Cross. They can export blood when it’s needed- mostly to places like Boston, although when the need arises it can be sent further afield, as it did four years ago when Haiti was in crisis.
On a global level the Red Cross has been working with the department of defense since the World Wars, by offering emergency counseling and support to military families. They also offer disaster relief (such as hurricanes) and often money for some of the international situations that occur. On a more local level they offer support in the event of a fire or a flood as well as running programs for refugees and immigrants. The later is often helping families reconnect if they’ve been separated. They offer preparedness training (such as CPR and First Aid) to the community. with the military, the airlines and US government to help move items that are needed further afield- whether blood, tents, tarps or food.
As you might guess there is always more work to be done—and always more help that could be used. The Red Cross is always seeking volunteers (a special call out to those who live in the North Country)- so if you or someone you know might be interested in learning more, please reach out to Maria. She and her team welcomes the opportunity to come and talk with your organization about how you might be involved. They see themselves as partners for employee engagement, so those of you who offer volunteer hours to your employees- consider learning more about the Red Cross!
Sustainability takes many forms as well know. In the office Maria’s team recycles as much as they can and they all have a recyclable water bottle with them. Beyond these important small initiatives the NH/VT Red Cross chapter is working on a bigger sustainability question as they celebrate 100 years-- how do they sustain their work, as well as staff and board, for another 100 years? Important work requires time and planning and we have no doubt that Maria and her team are diving into this work.
“Joining NH Businesses for Social Responsibility this year is a new way for the Red Cross to meet new businesses, to align like mind with like mind,” said Maria during our interview, “any chance that we can provide new networking and training opportunities to our staff and volunteers is a way for us to sustain and build our workforce.”
In the short term—we want to call out a current campaign that they have underway called the Home Fire Campaign. Since the start of this program 3 years ago over 5000 alarms have been installed in NH & VT. This fall during their national “Sound the Alarm” campaign, 1000 alarms will be installed in 4 weeks between September & October, specifically in the Manchester area, where there is the most need. This is a huge undertaking and the Red Cross needs volunteers to help make our communities safer. During this program the Red Cross has free smoke alarms that they will install in homes. The Red Cross team is holding Lunch & Learn sessions at both organizations and in homes. You can help save homes and lives by spreading the word, hosting a session, or getting involved by volunteering to install with us during this time frame.
Maria welcomes the chance to speak with anyone interested in learning more about the Red Cross or having her team come speak to your organization, whether it be your business or an organization you volunteer for.
Maria can be reached at 603.225.6697 x 226 or by email at email@example.com.
Please help us welcome Maria and the NH/VT American Red Cross to NHBSR.