Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thanks to Kim Goulette, Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross

Yesterday, the new Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in western Massachusetts, Ms. Kim Goulette, spoke to the students in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class.

Ms. Goulette assumed this position after the retirement of Mr. Rick Lee, who had served with the Red Cross for over 3 decades and who spoke to my students in previous years on 2 separate occasions. As Kim said to the students: "She has big shoes to fill!"

She provided the class with a brief history of the Red Cross and Clara Barton, of course, and emphasized what is unique about the Red Cross as a nonprofit organization, which was very interesting. The Red Cross provides immediate response to people in need because of disasters  and, in a sense, consists of  "first responders," about 97% of whom are volunteers.  Whether it is food, blankets, drinks, or even teddy bears for children in the nearterm, or shelter, food, and resources during the recovery phase, Red Cross volunteers are there to help. I saw such teddy bears last spring when I had the honor of attending the Hometown Heroes breakfast in Springfield as a guest of Mr. Rick Lee's.

Ms. Goulette spoke about the big fire in Amherst last summer in an apartment complex at which she assisted after only about 1 week on the job.She also spoke about the role of the Red Cross in feeding the National Guardsmen who were deployed to eastern MA because of the multiple immense snowfalls this winter that disrupted lives, transportation, and other infrastructure because frozen and burst pipes and collapsed roofs.

She mentioned the gains for the community through the new Red Cross Springfield headquarters with its activities, including blood donations, under one roof. This consolidation has resulted in increased efficiencies in disaster responses.

Ms. Goulette highlighted the various activities of the Red Cross in communities that some may not be as aware of, such as the call centers for military families (Rick Lee's brilliant idea), CPR training and certification, youth programs, international programs, and volunteer training.

She shared many fascinating facts with us such as that every 9 minutes the Red Cross is responding to a disaster and it spends $360 million preparing for disasters. It is entirely dependent on donors for funding and she mentioned the challenges associated with financial donations that are earmarked for a particular disaster. In the US, there are 61,000 shelter sites, which include schools, and with the mobile kitchens, the RC is able to serve up to 1 million meals a day.  I was curious so I asked what meals the National Guardsmen were provided in the Boston area recently and she mentioned chicken soup, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hot chocolate, and coffee. The volunteers get woken up at 2AM and then retrieved the supplies for delivery in eastern MA.

I found the challenging new landscape of blood donations and collections very interesting since, along with two of my doctoral students, who are now professors, Amir H. Masoumi, and Min Yu, I wrote several articles on blood supply chains.  She mentioned "competition" in the blood supply chain industry, which one would not normally think of, different surgical procedures, which are resulting in less blood loss and, hence, need for transfusions, and also the emphasis on decreasing wastage. The Red Cross now supplies only about 40% of the blood in the US. We in Operations Management always care about supply meeting demand and, in this sector, there is the perishability aspect of blood, and uncertainty as to demand (for unscheduled procedures due to accidents, for example) as well as to supply (will the donors show up and, if so, how many).

There were many questions from the students and I am sure many thoughtful reflections that continue.

Thanks to Ms. Kim Goulette for the great lecture and to the American Red Cross and other Red Cross societies for great work in disaster relief and reducing human suffering!