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Nonprofits

From Higher Ed to Red Cross CEO: Linda Braddy One Year In

The American Red Cross North Texas CEO describes her transition to the aid world and what challenges await.
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American Red Cross North Texas CEO Linda Braddy giving blood. Courtesy: American Red Cross North Texas

In one year, Dr. Linda Braddy went from serving as the president of Dallas College’s Brookhaven Campus to becoming the CEO of the American Red Cross North Texas Region – overseeing more than nine million people in 121 counties. Braddy encountered tornadoes, flooding, and two national blood shortages during her first year. Yet, even after a chaotic first year, Braddy’s attitude toward her job is as bright as her festive nails painted just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Braddy is no stranger to service. During her work at Brookhaven, a community college in Farmer’s Branch with a student population of about 11,000, before that at Tarrant County College, Braddy partnered with social service and medical organizations to provide aid to students. While hiring somebody outside of an organization as a CEO comes with the challenge of a lack of experience, having a new set of eyes on operations allows her to bring a fresh perspective to the North Texas branch. With Braddy as CEO, the Red Cross focuses more on community, especially at a grassroots level. Though this has been an adjustment for staff, she says everyone has collaborated across the organization’s five lines of service: Disaster Relief, Blood Services, Training & Certification, Services to the Armed Forces, and International Services.

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American Red Cross North Texas CEO Linda Braddy Courtesy: American Red Cross North Texas

Her role as an executive at Brookhaven removed her from the students; now, Braddy could not be any closer to the action. This last year was a busy one for the Disaster Relief team, and Braddy says that although they managed to keep up, it will not be slowing down anytime soon.

Just one month after she was named CEO, tornadoes swept through the Midwestern, Southern, and Eastern parts of the country, most notably an EF3 tornado that left the city of Little Rock with a long road to recovery. The summer of 2023 saw significant flash floodings in West Texas towns like Amarillo and Hereford, followed by tornadoes that ripped through the Panhandle towns of Perryton and Matador. During these disasters, Braddy and Red Cross staff and volunteers from all over the country worked with residents needing help. She worked with Red Cross regional and operational leadership, disaster personnel, and community leaders in Perryton and Matador to address the community’s needs and concerns.

“I was there for two weeks, just boots on the ground working,” Braddy says. “I got to be on mission and see what we do. That would have been the equivalent of being in the classroom teaching students when I was in Higher Education.”

Not slowing down is an accurate assessment; Braddy notes that in the 1980s, billion-dollar disasters were expected about once every six months. Now, episodic large-scale to chronic large-scale disasters are expected every two to three weeks. Braddy says it is a massive accomplishment for the Red Cross to manage and adapt to these crises, especially considering volunteers comprise about 90 percent of the Red Cross’ disaster labor.

Another major challenge faced by the Red Cross is blood shortages, which were declared on September 11, 2023, and again on January 8, 2024. Hurricane Idalia in August led to blood drive cancellations during a time of year that is already challenging for the nation’s blood supply due to traveling and summer vacations—the winter holidays exacerbated the issue.

“We were in crisis mode about a month ago,” Braddy said. “When we say we have a shortage and need more [blood], it’s critical. We don’t issue those blood shortage notifications until it is very important.”

In her role as a bully pulpit for the Red Cross, Braddy shares the message that people can donate blood every two months, especially those with universal donor Type O Negative blood. Braddy would love to see more blood drive location hosts, such as business or office buildings, to help increase the supply. She hopes for these sponsors to host programs with the Red Cross every few months and publicize them to employees. The Red Cross has also seen a decrease in volunteers since the COVID-19 pandemic and urges anyone interested to give back to the organization.

“If people are looking for a way to give back to their community and get involved, look to volunteer with us and donate blood,” Braddy says. “We always welcome financial contributions, but it’s the time that people have and their blood – literally – to help their neighbors. If people understand that we’re serving locally and serving their neighbors and we could use their help, that would be great.”

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Celie Price

Celie Price

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