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Yellow home for Red Cross

Most people or businesses file moving under “things to be carried out only under extreme duress; see example at definition of eviction.”

After more than 30 years of enjoying a rent-free existence in Island County, the local Red Cross chapter is moving. The Navy has donated space to the service organization for decades, first on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and for the last 14 years on government property located at the corner of Ault Field and Langley Boulevard.

“We paid for long distance calls, we paid for our cable, just the basics,” said Barbara Johnson, chapter executive director. “It’s been a great deal. The Navy has been very generous and very nice.”

The Navy-owned building will be razed next year, creating an annual savings of $48,000 in operating costs.

Barbara Johnson, chapter executive director, is not viewing the impending relocation as a burden, rather an opportunity to start fresh in a more centrally-located facility. The Red Cross was offered space in Building 13 on the Seaplane Base, but the director gratefully declined.

“It just wasn’t feasible,” she said. “We need to be out for the public. We don’t just service the military. It’s everybody.”

Poring over commercial real estate listings and accessing her network for local connections, Johnson and her staff searched for new digs that could accommodate the organization. The first promising space fell through, which turned out to be a blessing.

“The one that we found, the owners are just wonderful,” Johnson said of building owners Don and Stephanie Pierce. “I showed up on a Sunday afternoon and said we’re looking at the space. Stephanie said it was $3,000 a month. I said we can only do $2,150. They said, ‘Well, that’s doable.’”

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

“It will truly work for us,” an excited and relieved Johnson said. “We have office space for all my staff, we have a classroom, we have storage space. There’s even a kitchen.”

The building itself is unmistakable. Only the color blind will have difficulty locating the facility.

“I just tell everybody to look for the bright, yellow building,” Johnson said. “I’m putting the word out. We’re not there yet, but go by and look at it. We’ll be able to offer more to the public there.”

The move is tentatively scheduled to take place the first weekend in November.

“We’re still fully functional where we are, but once we’re fully functional over there, then it will be a weekend move,” she said.

To add a level of homeyness, Northrop Grumman has agreed to donate furniture to the office.

“They told us they know what kind of furniture we have,” Johnson said with a laugh. “They said it’s really nice stuff.”

A monthly rent bill will spread the local chapter thin, but the executive director has already begun ramping up fund-raising.

“That’s one reason I’m promoting the conference room,” Johnson said. “I know there’s people out there who could use it for an hour.”

Myriad other events are in the embryonic stages. The Red Cross is always open to new fund-raising ideas, provided the brainstormer is willing to organize the event for the time-strapped chapter volunteers.

Johnson will be able to shoulder the added expenses by cutting office hours, not staff. She emphasized that she will not allow the relocation and extra cash outlays to work to the detriment of community service.

“They are willing to stick in there, but we want to be able to fully service the community,” she said.

Updated information about the Island County Chapter, as well as its move into the Oak Harbor city limits, is available at www.islandcountyredcross.org.

“People can now donate online through the Web site,” Johnson said.

Island County residents have historically opened their wallets for the ubiquitous fund-raisers that seem to appear around every corner. Rather than stick out her hand and solicit donations simply on the basis of needing the money, Johnson gives the cause a face. She describes the very pregnant woman who just lost everything in a house fire.

“You say the word ‘fund-raiser’ and people run and hide,” she said. “They’re scared of it. You need to talk about what you know.”

Several community businesses have placed donation jars on their counters to act as donation receptacles. Johnson encouraged others to join in the cause and help the chapter as it sets up camp on Dock Street.

“We’re just looking for extra support,” she said.

The main phone line at the new facility will be 675-2912. Until the move takes place, the chapter can be reached at that number or 257-2096.

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