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Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Former fire chief to lead Red Cross

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - A new Red Cross director has taken the role of leading the way to recovery when disaster strikes in Auglaize County.
Former St. Marys fire chief Ken Cline came out of retirement Jan. 9 to head the Auglaize chapter of the nonprofit organization. Former director Adam Suchland of New Bremen resigned Oct. 25 after being arrested in Lima for soliciting a prostitute while using an agency vehicle.
"I came out of retirement because I want to help people," Cline said during a St. Marys Rotary meeting Wednesday.
Cline, 59, is a graduate of Memorial High School and served on the St. Marys Fire Department for 34 years, eight years as chief.
"I know first-hand how fires affect people, and I'm glad I can help," he said.
Allen County Red Cross Director David Collins told Rotarians the organization is best known for its disaster response program that aids fire victims. The Allen County chapter oversees the Auglaize and Hardin County chapters.
He said the organization responded to 44 fire disasters in Auglaize County last year and more than 100 in Allen County.
The Red Cross responds to all single-family house fires in the area. Most house fires occur in low income areas where families often don't have insurance nor a support system from family or friends, Collins said.
"When people run from their homes in the dead of winter without shoes and with only their pajamas on their backs, they need immediate help," he said.
Collins said the first priority of the Red Cross is to secure temporary shelter, food, clothes and medication for fire victims.
"Our goal is to take survivors and get them back on their feet and back to their normal lives," he said.
The Red Cross is also known for its blood drive program, Collins said. One unit of blood helps three patients. The Auglaize Chapter collected 3,084 units of blood in 2011.
"That's over 9,000 people who benefited from blood donors in Auglaize County," he said.
The Red Cross collects 52 percent of all blood products in the country and is having its highest success rate among high school students, Collins said.
The Red Cross also certifies area life guards and teaches CPR and first aid. It teaches about 9,000 classes each year in the tri-county area.
Collins said the organization's service to arms program is likely its best kept secret. The Red Cross is responsible for communication between soldiers and their families during an emergency.
All area soldiers are entered into a Red Cross database.
"During a family emergency, like a death in the family, it's coordinated through us," Collins said. "We make sure we get them back home."
Cline said his first experience with the Red Cross was with the service to arms program.
"My brother was on a secret mission with the Air Force when our mom died," he said. "I didn't know how to get ahold of him, but the Red Cross found him right away."
Volunteers handle 97 percent of the organization's work, Collins said.
"We really rely on the dedication of our volunteers," he said. "If you talk to anyone who volunteers for a nonprofit, they're there because they believe in the cause."
Cline said he is looking for more volunteers. Anyone interested can contact him at auglaizerc@allenohrc.org.
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