Fisk bids farewell to Red Cross post

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Kim Fisk came to the Carter County chapter of the American Red Cross six months ago when the chapter's future looked uncertain.
   After building a healthy volunteer base and redefining the office's identity, Fisk is departing to return to her roots in live theater.
   "It is bittersweet because I am really sad to leave it," said Fisk who moved to Carter County last year. A New York native and live theater veteran, Fisk is leaving to join the road show for the Tony-winning Broadway play "Hairspray" as the stage manager. "I've been doing this for 10 years ... touring is in my blood," she said.
   Friends and Red Cross volunteers said farewell to Fisk at a reception held in the Carter County Health Department Annex on Monday.
   "Kim has given us a really fantastic foundation to build on," said Glenda Bobalik, director of emergency disaster services with the Kingsport American Red Cross chapter. "She has gotten a lot of people involved."
   The handful of volunteers available -- estimated to be 18 by Bobalik -- when Fisk arrived has swelled to 55 including course instructors. The office also resumed assisting Carter County families who had lost their homes to fire and helped put local families in contact with soldiers serving abroad through the military emergency messaging service.
   Prior to Fisk's arrival, the county's Red Cross chapter had undergone tumultuous times. The chapter's entire Board of Directors resigned after a meeting held on Sept. 12. The chapter's executive director and disaster services director resigned the next day and transferred incoming calls to the Kingsport Area Red Cross chapter. The action came shortly after the Carter County location was denied rechartering as a chapter by the Red Cross Regional Volunteer Committee.
   Board members of the Elizabethton/Carter County United Way delayed funding to the organization until they had a better grasp of where their appropriations would be spent.
   The resignations did not sit well with regional Red Cross officers. The office closed for some weeks until being reopened on a part-time basis staffed with volunteers from the Kingsport chapter. The office was ultimately developed into a "service center" with a part-time coordinator to direct volunteers, oversee classes, and develop disaster response and preparedness drills, according to Harris' ongoing service plan for the county.
   Fisk was hired as coordinator in January. She revitalized the office by developing classes to teach first aid, CPR, and disaster emergency response as well as swimming lessons. The Red Cross office continued to operate on a part-time basis from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Emergency assistance is available for fires, other disasters, and military emergency messages.
   Bobalik said the organization wanted to continue strengthening ties with other public health and safety agencies in the county in the coming months.
   "We are looking at working the senior citizens in the community and continuing ahead," said Bobalik.
   Elizabethton resident Bridget Hurt was selected by American Red Cross officials as the new coordinator. Hurt began as a volunteer roughly five months ago. She begins as coordinator on Monday and will handle the service delivery and training schedule for the office as Fisk did.
   "I want to see us raise our visibility in the county," said Hurt, "and I want to continue the same services Kim started here."
   Fisk hits the road in September with Baltimore being the first stop on a road itinerary that runs through 2005. Based on John Waters' 1988 film, the play won 8 Tony awards last month. Fisk said watching the community's base of volunteers grow has been the most rewarding part of her job.
   "The best part is now we have a group of volunteers to make a difference on what we do," she said. "I am completely confident it is going to get better and better."