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Preciado takes over local American Red Cross chapter

May 22, 2001|By ARTURO BOJORQUEZ, Staff writer

Sylvia Preciado's life has changed drastically in the last two weeks.

In the past she helped others find jobs and now she found one for herself as director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

"I'm very excited. The challenges that I've been pursuing are very workable," Preciado said.

Preciado will be replacing Karen Kelley, who will retire at the end of the month after 14 years on the job.

Visibility and outreach to the community will be Preciado's first objectives.

Preciado, who previously worked as a program representative for the state Employment Development Department, said she would like the Red Cross to offer more courses such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes for families, swimming classes for youths and more specialized certification for firefighters and police officers.

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"(I want to) bring programs that we can grow with and that our community will benefit from," she said.

Preciado already has talked with other organizations about expanding the Red Cross lifeguard training program for youth.

Kids should know she plans to develop a swimming course for them.

"An instructor was in a presentation one day and asked the kids how many swim, and everybody raised their hands, but when he asked them how many of them have taken classes, he didn't see a lot of hands, because to take formal instruction it costs money," Preciado said.

The courses will include opportunities for disadvantaged people.

The San Diego-Imperial Valley Red Cross responds with aid to a minimum of one fire per day "and that doesn't count the disasters we have to attend," Preciado said.

That is the reason Preciado wants to see the community get more involved with what she calls "your American Red Cross."

Disasters, from the Red Cross' point of view, can range from a single-family incident to a multi-family incident.

Preciado, who has volunteered for many years — something she learned about from her mother — says a lot of companies have to be in compliance with safety requirements so their employees have to be trained and Red Cross is the most recognized trainer.

Said Preciado: "The American Red Cross instruction certification is nationally recognized."

The courses train people as instructors or volunteers. The Red Cross has six contracted instructors and 20 volunteers, but the Latino community needs more service.

"We need to increase volunteers and more bilingual volunteers," Preciado said.

Certifications need to be done on a yearly basis or skills fade, she said.

Preciado wants to see an increase in the consciousness of families about disaster awareness.

"We see how we are prepared for disasters like (having at home) dry goods and water for at least two or three days minimum and how many have that," she said,

Bob Elber, director of communications and resource development for the American Red Cross San Diego/Imperial counties chapter, was on the search committee that selected Preciado for the job.

"We are really, really fortunate to have her," Elber said. "She is going to be a real asset to the Red Cross. She's already going full tilt."

Elber said one of the good things about Preciado is "she already has wonderful contacts in Imperial County."

Asked about how her life has changed since moving to the Red Cross, Preciado said: "I'm grateful for the skills developed in my past life and changing with the American Red Cross is a very easy transition, not a lot of assimilation. It's a totally different industry."

Preciado said she is eating, living and breathing the Red Cross, even taking home work, to make the principles of humanity and volunteerism of the Red Cross effective in the Imperial Valley.

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