New regional Red Cross director seeks to increase volunteers

Stephanie White knows first-hand how important volunteers are to the mission of the American Red Cross. That’s why she’s trying to get more of them.

Stephanie White is the new executive for the Upper Palmetto chapter of the American Red Cross, the chapter that serves Chester, Lancaster and York Counties. She was named to the director position in October of 2013.

Originally from Sumter, White started in 1991 as a Red Cross volunteer in the Disaster Services program in York County, and later became an employee of the American Red Cross in 1994.

She has served in roles in each leadership position across the board within the Red Cross in all the areas where they have services, including disaster services, military services to families, volunteer recruitment and preparedness and health and safety services.

“That’s been my career for the past 19 years,” she said.

White lives in York county, but has deep Chester County connections.

“One of the things I used to do was, when we merged with Chester County (into the chapter) I would come here several days a week. I also lead the operation in Great Falls in 2006 where over 500 families were displaced because of that chemical fire. Chester County is dear to my heart,” she said.

White says she sees the role of the Upper Palmetto chapter in the Chester area to establish new relationships, and maintain the ones that have been established in the three-county areas.

“That means the American Red Cross wants to have a visible presence and we want to make sure that the programs and services that we offer continue,” she said.

White pointed out that the Red Cross is a 24-hour agency and they respond to disasters any time of the day or night.

“Last year in Chester County, we responded and assisted over 30 families in the community,” she said.

The backbone of that kind of immediate and comprehensive response is a storng volunteer corps, said White.

“One of our goals is to see that we increase the number of volunteers, because we are a volunteer-led organization. Ninety six percent of our workforce are volunteers,” she said.

Budget cuts and the state of the economy in general have meant that many agencies are regionalizing their efforts, that is, serving a larger out of one office. The American Red Cross has also been regionalized, but White says the goal is to still have a Red Cross presence (in each of the communities served by a chapter.

“Our main focus is, in the event of a disaster, the American Red Cross is there to take care of the immediate and long-term needs of families. That hasn’t changed. There may be fewer chapters, but the mission continues,” White said.

She said that in the Chester County area, the most common disaster the Red Cross responds to is single-family emergencies. Volunteers and staff who are on call make sure this is a 24-hour agency, able to respond when needed.

In the Upper Palmetto chapter, there are over 200 active volunteers. But the agency is always looking for more volunteers. White has a few ideas on how to recruit them.

She plans to hold a re-Grand Opening after the first of the year for the Chester service center, which she hopes will bring to the community consciousness the need for more volunteers to help with the Red Cross mission. She also gets the volunteer recruiting word out to churches and other groups in the community.

“Our focus will be (volunteers to help with) disaster services, blood services and any sort of administrative help needed here at the service center,” she said.