Gonzalez leads fresh outreach effort at Red Cross

Filed under: One on One,Print | Tags:,

Tom Gonzalez has been CEO of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross since April. Prior to that, he worked for the Boy Scouts of America for 17 years.

How did the economic downturn affect the ability of the Red Cross to raise money?

The Red Cross is affected in two ways when there are large national or international disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Katrina. These (events) can siphon funds from local fundraising. Like many nonprofits, we have felt the bite of people holding on to assets and cash until they see how things are going to turn out, economically.

What is the next initiative for the Pikes Peak Red Cross?

The Red Cross does three things locally: Provide service to the armed forces; response for local disasters, which in our market are mainly apartment fires and house fires; and administration of our health and safety training classes.

We want to expand our services and bring our core services up to speed. We don’t offer full services right now to the armed forces. We’re part-time. If a family moves here from a place that has had full services, they won’t have the experience they’re used to.

The Red Cross is now coming up to speed with reaching out to the community to add volunteers and to develop a stronger board structure — to raise funds and social capital. This will allow us to not only provide current services but to expand our services.

What are your biggest challenges?

Our big issue is reaching out to the community and getting people involved who will bring their time and treasure. We serve 18 counties in southern Colorado, with two offices, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

We serve rural and urban areas. Our goal is to increase our board from 24 to 40 people by the end of 2013, so it’s representative of the 18 counties we serve. We want to bring the Pueblo operation up-to-speed — it’s only four days a week now, with two part-time people. We want them to be full-time and add a third person.

It’s not that we haven’t had financial challenges, but our greatest challenge is to get the best quality talent for volunteers and board members and then have everyone on the same page.

We are aggressively moving forward to attract the best talent for volunteers and board members, so we are in the best position to move forward — as the economy turns around — and to attract more dollars and add more programs.

We’re not in a holding pattern.

What is your next goal?

Our goal is to be seen as the premier organization that people turn to for prevention and for response in time of need, whether it’s in our populated areas or in our rural areas.

Who are your heroes?

We all have heroes. Mine are the local volunteers who have responded to disasters and house fires in the middle of the night. They give people shelter and comfort and counseling, and then get them the help they need.