Business of the Month: American Red Cross, Kimberly Coley

 Kimberly Coley, Executive Director with the American Red Cross

Kimberly Coley, Executive Director with the American Red Cross

What is your title with the American Red Cross?
Executive Director

As the Executive Director for the American Red Cross Pacific Coast and Ventura County chapters, what kind of responsibilities do you have in this role?  
Being the Executive Director comes with many hats!  My roles and responsibilities are always changing and no day is ever the same.  Of course, I work closely with our team on a variety of programs and services, always striving to take care of our people and improve the processes and ways in which we work.  In addition, to support staff and volunteers, I also serve as the official liaison with our board of directors up and down the coast; I meet with donors, partners, and media and I’m the “face of the organization” in the community.  I absolutely love my job and feel so blessed to be doing such incredible, life-saving work! 

How long have you been in this position?  
I was promoted to Executive Director last November- so almost a year now.  It’s crazy to think it’s already been a year because every day I continue to learn so much.  Time flies when you’re having fun!

For folks/readers unfamiliar with the American Red Cross and all it does: What is this non-profit all about, and what makes it so special/unique?
The Red Cross is an iconic symbol, recognized around the world as a sign of help and humanity; however, the majority of Americans are only familiar with a portion of our work.  Most people think they know what we do, like hosting blood drives and responding to major natural disasters, but there’s so much more to this incredible organization!  Every day here in Santa Barbara County the Red Cross is responding to single family home fires, educating community members on the importance of emergency preparedness, teaching critical CPR/First aid skills, collecting lifesaving blood, and supporting military members and their families. And while these programs and services won’t always make the headlines, for the individual or family involved, the care and resources they receive are priceless!     

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One initiative that most people are unaware of is our Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.  We respond to at least one home fire a week!  Fire doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor.  It happens to people all over the place.  While these single family home fires are the most common disaster facing Americans, they’re also the most preventable.  Having working smoke alarms in your home cuts the risk of death by 50%.  Did you know that 7 times a day someone dies in a home fire and every 40 minutes a fire related injury is reported?  Scary statistics!  We did a survey and asked people:  How long do you think you have to get out of your home if there were to be a fire?  Seventy-five percent of them said five minutes or more, and the true answer is two minutes or less.  Most people think we have all the time in the world to gather our belongings.  We don’t.  That’s why we’re going into the community, installing free smoke alarms, and educating our friends and neighbors on the importance of having a plan, having a kit and being ready to get out when the time comes. 

In fact, we have an event coming up in SB on October 7th.  “SOUND THE ALARM, SAVE A LIFE” is a nationwide event; however, we’re hosting one right here in our community, where in one day we hope to engage more than 100 volunteers by installing 400 free smoke alarms in houses throughout the Eastside.  It’s such a fun (and rewarding) day-  a great way to give back and we invite everyone to join us!  To learn more, visit www.soundthealarm.org.

How did you get into your line of work?
I stumbled into Non-Profit Management, honestly.  In fact, I’ve had 3 totally different careers in the last 13 years.  The common thread though has always been the people I know.  For me, it seems to come down to relationship building and networking.  I’m constantly meeting people and trying to “connect the dots” for them and for myself.  Because of that, I continue to meet the right people at the right time, subsequently leading to the right opportunities for me in the given moment.  Again, I feel so blessed to be living and working in Santa Barbara and I’m incredibly thankful for everyone who has played a role in my journey to leadership!

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This year was an exciting year for you, Pacific Coast Business Times named you one of the top 50 women in business, tell us more about this honor. 
Yes!  This was a complete honor and I’m so thankful to the Business Times for the special recognition.  To be included amongst so many other wonderful, well-respected names within our community was a real treat!  It’s been especially fun to connect with several of the honorees since the recognition- in fact, I’m now learning from some of the best women leaders in town!  These women are master multi-taskers and highly collaborate; although not afraid to get territorial to protect their domain J.  It seems as if all of them have the same kind of circular vision that enables them to be well-rounded and intentional in how they spend their time.  I think it’s critical for us to lean in where we can and lift each other up as much as possible- so I thank those who are now mentoring me and I’m looking forward to giving back to other women in our community over the years to come.

Why is the American Red Cross so important/vital to the Santa Barbara County community and beyond? (where would this community be if it weren’t for the American Red Cross?)
The Red Cross has been in Santa Barbara County for 100 years; we are a part of this community’s history. Many people don’t think about the Red Cross until they need us but when you’re having the worst day of your life, we’ll be there. That’s what we do. 
For the family affected by the home fire, Red Cross volunteers are there to wrap a blanket around their shoulders, offer drinks and snacks, make sure the family has somewhere to go and help them take the next steps toward recovery.  For the patient who is in need of a life-saving transfusion, the Red Cross is collecting and distributing blood to hospitals almost as quickly as donations are coming in.  For the deployed service member whose family is experiencing a crisis, the Red Cross will deliver a verified message to better connect them with their loved ones back at home. 

 Because of our amazing volunteers, we’re here; building a stronger, more resilient Ventura County.  All day, every day, wherever someone needs us!   

We can tell you are passionate about what you do, what is your favorite part about this job? What do you love most?  No doubt.. hands down... the BEST part of my job is the people that I get to work with every single day!  I am beyond blessed!  Our volunteers, staff, and donors are the most loyal, selfless people you’ll ever meet.  They inspire me to be a better version of myself and because of that, I leap out of bed every morning, eager to come to work.  And that’s never happened before ;)  #RedCrossProud

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