- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Terri Philion has “rolled up her sleeves” and is ready for the goals and challenges in her work as the new executive director for the West Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Philion, based in Minot, works with 28 counties in western North Dakota in carrying out the mission of the American Red Cross. Her coverage territory extends east to Pierce and Wells counties, north to the Canadian border, west to the Montana border and south to the Bismarck/Burleigh county area.

The Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/2mUDm00 ) reports that before her position with West Dakota Chapter, Philion was director of sales at Visit Minot.

“When I saw the Red Cross position was open I thought it was a great way to get back into the nonprofit world,” said Philion. Before she had children, she worked for the March of Dimes and Rehab Services. “I really enjoy doing nonprofit work,” she said.

The Red Cross fits the bill for her desire to return to nonprofit organization work.

“I really like the Red Cross‘ mission. It’s so unique,” Philion said. She began as the West Dakota Chapter’s executive director in October 2016.

“When we show up at a home fire we aren’t elbowing other agencies out of the way to provide assistance,” she said. She said the Red Cross complements other agencies that can fill the need beyond those first 48 hours.

Philion said local Red Cross volunteers recently responded to a fire in Turtle Lake. One person died in the house fire and another person was able to escape.

“That just tugs at your heart,” Philion said of the incident, adding, “It made me just really pause and realize what amazing people our volunteers are.”

Overall, western North Dakota has 127 active Red Cross volunteers in the 28 counties, Philion said. She said they are the same people the Red Cross can call on to volunteer to deploy if there is a need for volunteers at a disaster out of state.

“Any of our volunteers can deploy. Allen and Carol Becker have deployed on numerous occasions,” said Philion of the Minot couple. She said the Red Cross feeds and shelters but it does not get involved with medical services.

Philion has a diverse background. Growing up in an Air Force family, she said she always tells people she moved to North Dakota in 1984, 2003 and 2015. “I’m just going to stay because I keep coming back,” she said.

Born in Louisiana, she and her family moved to England where she attended British primary school. They then moved to Wichita, Kansas, and when she was 8 years old to Minot. She graduated from Minot High School.

Philion had an opportunity to move to South Korea to teach conversational English to the mayor and his staff at Uijeongbu.

“If you ever watched ‘MASH,’ the opening credits of ‘MASH’ are filmed right outside of Uijeongbu, where I lived,” she said.

Returning to the U.S., she went to work for a tax accounting firm in Louisiana. “I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics,” she said.

Back in North Dakota again, she operated one of the largest daycares in Mercer County and was a Mary Kay Cosmetics independent sales director. She earned four free cars for her Mary Kay work, finishing in the top 20 out of 1.2 million consultants.

When her kids got older, Philion was ready to get back into the workforce. She was hired as the executive director of the Hazen Chamber of Commerce.

“I wanted to find a way that I could still contribute to the community because being a daycare provider is a huge service to the community,” she said. “I just felt that serving as the executive director for the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau - it was a dual role in Hazen - was another opportunity to still offer time and talent to the community yet start to sharpen my career skills.” Before she got the job she said she was worried that because she had been out of the workforce so long she would have a hard time finding a position.

Philion found her way back into the workforce and was with the Hazen Chamber for three years before moving back to Minot.

“This is what I consider to be my home,” she said.

She went to work as marketing director at Visit Minot. It was a different type of role for her but she had 25 years of sales experience.

With the Red Cross, Philion is one of two paid staff members in western North Dakota. Rob Stotz is the disaster program manager based out of Bismarck.

“Other than that, we rely on our volunteers 100 percent for every other support function; and it works well,” Philion said.

She said there is a need to increase the Red Cross volunteer force in western North Dakota.

“We have a goal of being onsite within two hours of being called. Because our region is so vast we really need to take a look at the geography and make sure we have volunteers in place that can meet those goals,” she said. She and Stotz will be working together to recruit additional volunteers.

“For the most part our volunteers can select their job with the Red Cross so if they don’t want to respond to disasters, there are definitely other ways that they can provide support to the mission,” she said.

She said they will also be working to establish or engage Red Cross relationships with emergency managers, including fire chiefs and those types of leaders in the communities.

“We’ve seen a decrease in disaster responses in western North Dakota and we think that’s because of our preparedness campaign,” Philion said. “We installed over a thousand smoke alarms and we truly believe that’s why our dispatch calls have been down.”

She said they have some very generous donors who helped obtain those resources, along with the efforts of the volunteers knocking on doors, testing smoke alarms and making sure the batteries are working.

“You’d be surprised at the number of homes that don’t have a single smoke detector,” she said.

This past summer after someone was sent to the hospital when a home lacking fire alarms was destroyed, the Red Cross and Minot Fire Department teamed up to check smoke detectors, installing some free of charge if needed.

Philion said the Minot Fire Department has been an outstanding partner for the Red Cross.

“That’s what I love about Minot and about western North Dakota is we really look out for each other,” Philion said.

She said they have a goal to install at least 1,000 smoke detectors in the upcoming fiscal year. The smoke detectors are free of charge and installed in higher-risk areas based on fire department information.

The Pillow Case Project is another prevention program in which the Red Cross goes to third- and fourth-grade classrooms. Through its partnership with the Walt Disney Company, the Red Cross provides each child with a pillow case.

“On this pillow case they can draw their families’ emergency escape plan. The concept is when the kids get home and mom and dad are unpacking the backpack and say ‘What is this?’ it starts that conversation,” Philion said. “That’s what the program is designed to do, is get that conversation started at home so families have a plan.”

Plans are to provide the program again with assistance of the Walt Disney Company.

The Red Cross is also in partnership with the Harlem Globetrotters, Philion said. She said each year the Globetrotters, an exhibition basketball team, identifies a charity - and the Red Cross is the Globetrotters’ official charity this year. The Globetrotters are scheduled to be in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck in April. Plans are for games to enhance the Pillow Case Project.

“Those are our goals,” Philion said. She said she’s also planning to develop the chapter’s board of directors, which has openings now.

Although the West Dakota Chapter covers a large region in North Dakota, Philion said many tools are in place now as far as technology goes. For example, she said social media platform Skype is a way they can reach people in the region for meetings and conference calls.

“So it’s not always a physical presence but we are trying to ensure that people across western North Dakota know that their Red Cross is here and here to stay,” Philion said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

___

Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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