Red Cross Lays Off Kalispell Employees

By Beacon Staff

On Tuesday the two full-time employees of Kalispell’s American Red Cross office were informed they will lose their jobs, effectively shutting down Northwest Montana’s only Red Cross office.

Rod Kopp, the chief executive officer of American Red Cross in Montana, delivered a letter detailing the layoffs to the Kalispell office.

“Apparently there is some thought that it will be run by volunteers but with no staff that’s not going to happen,” said Karen Davison, chairwoman of the office’s advisory board. “It’s not realistic to think the office could continue on a volunteer basis.”

The two employees are Gayle Wilhelm, Red Cross’s regional director for all of Western Montana, and Bernadette Larson, the office’s program specialist. Wilhelm and Larson will keep their jobs until March 28 and their health benefits will be effective until March 31, Davison said.

The letter states that the layoffs are part of the Montana chapter’s efforts to restructure its budget and staffing. Davison said American Red Cross has endured financial problems in recent years and the Montana chapter has been especially hit hard.

Davison said she couldn’t understand why the Kalispell office was chosen when it contributes 40 percent of the chapter’s annual fundraising.

“There may be logic behind this, but it’s beyond me,” Davison said. “(This is) going to turn upside down thousands of lives around Montana.”