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The Hub

September 25, 2008

BY LAYLI WHYTE Correspondent

New CEO: 'a Red Crosser by heart'

Tara Kelly takes over as head of Jersey Coast Chapter

Despite feeling the pinch of a struggling economy, the new chief executive officer of the Jersey Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross is focused on continuing and expanding the work of the Red Cross, both locally and abroad.

"There are still many businesses and individuals who want to continue to be a part of what we do," said CEO Tara Kelly in an interview last week. "The Red Cross, just like everyone else right now, is struggling. We just have to continue to educate people about what we do. Without funding for our vital programs, those programs will not exist."

Among the vital programs that assist people in this area on a day-to-day basis, according to Kelly, is the response of the Red Cross to house fires, especially when the family has been completely displaced and is without shelter, food or clothing. "The Red Cross provides shelter for up to two to three weeks," she said. "We also provide vouchers for clothing, so that the family can buy clothes that actually fit them, clothes they actually need. We also give them vouchers for food. If it's an elderly person, they've probably lost prescription medication and a wheelchair. We help them replace those items."

Kelly, who assumed the position of CEO with the Tinton Falls-based Jersey Coast Chapter on July 1, has made it her first priority to partner with other local organizations, including Chase for Life, a Little Silver-based nonprofit started by Farley Boyle.

Chase for Life was founded in 2005 after the Boyle family almost lost a child when daughter Chase nearly drowned. The goal of Chase for Life is to train parents and other child-care providers in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is the skill that saved Chase Boyle.

"That just marries so perfectly with our mission," said Kelly, who added that the program has been presented to the national office of the American Red Cross. "They really loved the idea and are planning to take it national."

Nationally, she said the chapter is involved in fundraising for the victims of Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana.

"We have sent 22 people, both staff and volunteers, for two- or three-week periods down to Houston and Baton Rouge, where they are working 14 hours a day, seven days a week to help with the relief effort," Kelly said. "The national office has started a $100 million campaign for relief efforts, and every chapter has the responsibility to raise money for that."

Another program that affects many local residents helps keeps servicemen and women in touch with their families when they are stationed overseas.

"When a family, for security reasons, can't know exactly where their son or daughter is," said Kelly, "we help keep them in touch. If a soldier's father dies, we reach out, and we bring any serviceman home within 48 or 72 hours for the funeral. They spend time with their family and then we fly them back to their post.We also provide birth announcements if a serviceman has had a baby while he is overseas. We provide any kind of communication and we are the only nonprofit that is allowed to do that. We are chartered by Congress, but we receive no federal funding. That's why it's so important that we keep educating people about what we do. I don't know anyone who learns about what we do and doesn't want to get involved. They are drawn to our message."

The Jersey Coast Chapter is also involved in international work, assisting in a national Red Cross program that provides measles vaccines to children in Africa, as well as partnering with a school in Uganda, providing each student with a blanket and clothing.

Kelly came to the Jersey Coast Chapter well prepared to take charge of a staff of 26, which has a coverage area that spans from Monmouth County to Cape May and has four other chapters reporting to it. In 2002 she took part in the American Red Cross National Star Trek Program, which is a twoyear training session for individuals to take on leadership roles within the organization, including that of CEO.

"There were 350 applicants in the country," she said, "and there were only 22 slots. It was a very intense two years. It was an incredible experience."

Before taking part in that program, Kelly had been a part of the Red Cross for more than a decade, first as director of development, then as chief development officer and deputy chapter executive.

"I'm a Red Crosser by heart," she said. "I've experienced their services at the best and worst of times. I have seen true teamwork and quality services that need to be provided."

According to a July 1 press release from the JerseyCoastChapter, Kelly is a graduate of Kean University, where she earned a degree in public administration. She currently serves on the advisory board of Health South Rehabilitation Hospital in Tinton Falls and is a past board member of Monmouth Ocean Development Council. On several occasions she was keynote speaker at the AmericanRedCrossNationalConference and for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Kelly has been a resident of Little Silver for five years, where she lives with her husband, Matt, and three children.

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