PUBLISHED: 4:18 PM on Wednesday, June 22, 2005
New Red Cross director working to unite Southeast
The people of southeast Alaska have always been willing to help those in trouble, whether it's tsunami victims in Asia or hurricane victims in south Florida. Their generosity is legendary, as is their willingness to volunteer their time to help communities in need. And now George Briggs, the new district director of the American Red Cross of Alaska, hopes that this enthusiasm to help others can be encouraged even closer to home.

"Southeast Alaska has always been known for its philanthropy and generosity, providing donations and volunteer labor to aid in disaster relief efforts," he explained. "But in the past few years, a lot of resources have gone out of Alaska, and we need to replenish our own supplies of volunteers and money. We want the people of Southeast to feel secure in the fact that when they need help, they can call on us."

Briggs, who has served as district director for five weeks, hopes to unite all of Southeast in order to provide every community with the services it needs. The former executive director of the Dillingham Chamber of Commerce and an adjunct professor at UAS Fairbanks, Bristol Bay campus, Briggs is responsible for all Red Cross activities from Yakutat to Metlakatla. This includes disaster and emergency response training; classes including CPR, AED training and First Aid; workplace training and aquatic training programs. The Red Cross also provides Armed Forces Emergency Services, putting servicemen and women in touch with family members around the world.

"We face a lot of challenges in Southeast, with logistics being at the top of the list," Briggs explained of the newly formed district. "We also need to recruit and establish relationships with more volunteers, and do more fundraising."

Worldwide, volunteers make up about 96 percent of the Red Cross' resources. "It's really important that they not only be trained, but that they are given a purpose," said Briggs. "We have some truly great volunteers, but we've also lost some because they were not kept in the loop."

One of Briggs' first goals, which he plans to have completed within six months, is to have Red Cross volunteer coordinators in every village in Southeast. "I want anyone to be able to call that person and get in touch with the Red Cross," said Briggs. "Right now, if you look in a phonebook outside Juneau, you can't even find our 1-800 number! That may seem like a small thing, but imagine that you're a family who has been displaced by a fire. It's important that they know who to call."

Briggs also plans to begin a fundraising effort at the beginning of July, called The Best of the Best, geared towards encouraging people to donate to the regional organization. "It's a small competition for Southeast in which we're challenging businesses, corporations and individuals to contribute towards the programs and services we provide right here," he said. "We're establishing a 'traveling trophy' that will be given to the community that shows the most dedication to the Red Cross in Southeast. Each year, it will go to the biggest benefactor." Other prizes will be awarded, including T-shirts to individuals who donate the most money.

In the meantime, Briggs plans to continue to expand on the services that the Red Cross offers, including increasing class offerings in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. He also hopes to increase the number of volunteers in each community, and to recruit more members for the organization's disaster action teams.

"The key is that people know that we are a resource that they can take advantage of whenever they need help," said Briggs. "We want them to know that we exist."

For more information on the Red Cross, call (907) 463-5713 or visit