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Red Cross, yellow building

With a paint job that would have made Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters proud, the Island County Chapter of the Red Cross has settled into its new yellow digs in the heart of downtown Oak Harbor.

The local chapter moved part of its staff into the Dock Street building in December, after enjoying a rent-free existence on Navy property for the last 13 years.

Executive Director Barbara Johnson has been tasked with a budgetary juggling act, but the new office is now equipped with an Americans with Disabilities Act-certified ramp and bathroom.

“The budget worries will always be there,” Johnson said. “We just have to focus on our goals.”

Navy and community volunteers helped make the move seamless. Johnson even recruited her husband, Rick, to lay carpet squares.

“This is a work in progress,” she said. “But it’s all coming together.”

The Red Cross for years was saddled with anonymity because of its “out-of-the-way” location at the intersection of Ault Field Road and Langley Boulevard. Johnson and her staff now have the luxury of physically meeting the people they have previously known only by their voices on the telephone.

“It’s so much nicer being accessible,” she said. “People ask where we are and I just say, “You know where the yellow building is? That’s us.’”

The Red Cross occupies the 3,000-square-foot upstairs of 1150 SE Dock St., which is comparable to the recently razed Ault Field building’s space. A wall was removed to create a large classroom and the new space will also be available to the community to rent — for a nominal fee — as a meeting room.

“These are things we couldn’t do before,” Johnson said. “I can offer the classroom and the space as needed.”

The director’s short-term goal is to hit the streets and introduce herself to the downtown community. Public outreach has always been a major priority, but again, location worked against the local chapter.

“We’re trying to reach the whole county. Once the weather gets nicer, I will be walking around downtown and just talking to people, letting them put a face to a name,” Johnson said of the incremental, impromptu, public outreach program. “I have a great support staff, so I have the flexibility to go out and meet people.”

The Red Cross organization emphasizes relationship-building. Johnson can now oblige.

“That’s what I’m looking forward to,” she said.

The public is invited to an open house on Thursday, March 6 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Red Cross’ new location. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m.

Community Events, April 2014

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