The Dayton Area Chapter of the American Red Cross has named Laura Seyfang its new executive.
A former General Motors and Delphi Automotive Systems manager with an educational background in industrial engineering, the 55-year-old Oakwood resident succeeds Tom Fodor, who left in October 2012 to take a position in Indianapolis.
His departure was the latest jolt for a Dayton branch that was consolidated with the Cincinnati chapter in 2011 and saw its allocation from the United Way cut by 76 percent in 2012.
“My background in business has been good preparation to navigate through this,” said Seyfang, who also is a board member of Dayton Habitat for Humanity and chair of its Family Support Committee. “I’ve dealt with reorganizations, centralizations and budget cuts. I will bring those skills to this job.”
Despite those challenges, “We’re going to keep our focus on our mission,” she said. “The Red Cross has good and important work to do. That’s what we’re going to accomplish.”
Incoming Dayton Red Cross board president and search committee member Carleen Suttman said the chapter “is thrilled with our find of Laura. While we’re part of the Cincinnati region, we have very specific goals for Dayton. Someone who knows Dayton, loves Dayton and moves easily throughout the community is a real advantage for us.”
Seyfang, a Michigan native who has lived in the Dayton area for more than 15 years, has two daughters – one a student at Ohio State University, the other a senior at Oakwood High School.
She retired from Delphi in 2009. Late last year, she decided it was time to pursue a position if she was going to stay in the Dayton area.
She struck up a conversation with the head of the firm doing the search for the Red Cross on the way out of her daughter’s basketball game one night. “It was pure luck. I believe it worked out because it was supposed to.”
Seyfang said she was impressed by how the Dayton Red Cross chapter responded when its United Way funding was cut by $500,000 last year.
“They simply said they weren’t going to cut services. They were going to set out to raise the money, and they made up about $400,000,” she said.
Outgoing board chair Marty Hydell, who headed the national search to replace Fodor, and interim executive Fran O’Shaughnessy led the organization after Fodor stepped down. O’Shaughnessy will return to her duties as director of emergency services.
The Dayton chapter budget in 2011-12 was about $3.7 million. Seyfang said that number has been “folded in” with the regional organization, which includes eight other offices and serves 36 counties from Sidney and Bellefontaine to Owen County, Ky., and some in Indiana.
“So many of our services are centralized. Now the the budget is as well,” she said.
The Dayton area chapter serves a population of 1.2 million in Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties. It has more than 800 volunteers and is recruiting more. About 40 people including staff and volunteers work out of the Dayton office.
Suttman said interviews were conducted with several other “core candidates” during the search. “We feel strongly that we made the right choice.”
The non-profit organization provides food, clothing and shelter to victims of fires and other emergencies, CPR training, lifeguard classes and disaster preparedness education. It houses an average of 48 families each night, including two to three military families.