Staff at the Morgan-Lawrence County Chapter of the American Red Cross would not know what to do without Howard Ellis. Every Wednesday for the past six years, Ellis has volunteered a full 8-hour day, managing the Red Cross CHERS (Chapter Environmental Resource System) database. An Emergency Services volunteer, Ellis enters into the system all fire cases and military cases opened in Morgan and Lawrence Counties. In addition, he audits the casework of all volunteers, ensuring consistency of casework and accuracy of disbursing orders prior to payment.
To better interpret the forms with which he works, Ellis willingly attended disaster classes. Trained in disaster family service casework, even though it is not his primary role, Ellis has stepped in as a volunteer caseworker whenever needed, interviewing families affected by fire and helping them determine their immediate, emergency needs.
In addition, he troubleshoots computer and software problems, installs new programs, compiles statistical reports, set up an Excel spread sheet for payroll, and completes a weekly back-up of computer files. Annually Ellis compiles statistics and files the Red Cross FOCIS report.
Ellis is the Chapter’s CHERS computer software “expert”, and was the first to volunteer in the chapter to learn the program. When a 3-day training on the CHERS software was offered in Montgomery, Ellis was eager to participate and become knowledgeable in the software. Since then, he has trained volunteers and staff members on the software. He is always there to answer questions. He also helps as needed as a disaster caseworker working with fire victims, and assists with special blood drives and fund-raising projects. In addition, Ellis is a regular blood donor!
The impact of Ellis’s service on the smooth operation of the Chapter is considerable. In an organization where service is a priority, it is easy to get behind with computer work and record keeping. Ellis keeps the database up-to-date, with information and statistics at his fingertips. Many Red Cross chapters have had a difficult time using the CHERS software because is not a very user-friendly program; however, Ellis has made it all possible for the Morgan-Lawrence Chapter.
Maintaining a database is extremely time-consuming. Because Ellis enters disaster and military cases weekly, the Emergency Services Director can concentrate on managing the program and providing direct service to clients. Last year, he entered 90 new disaster cases and 84 military cases. A disaster plan is very important to any nonprofit or business and particularly to the American Red Cross. Part of that plan is regular back-ups of the computer files. Ellis backs up the files at the Red Cross weekly and takes the disks home with him. In addition, when the emergency services director and on-call case workers are unavailable, he picks up the slack and handles cases.
Ellis is their unsung Wednesday hero- here every week behind the scene, making it all possible. He is a very reliable and conscientious volunteer, willing to help in all service areas. What he does weekly for the community is not visible or evident to most people, but Ellis is right here in the background, quietly doing his part, using his computer expertise to help emergency services run smoothly at the American Red Cross.