PEABODY — One of the best-known volunteer organizations is joining the exodus from brick-and-mortar locations with the American Red Cross’ decision to move out of its Lowell Street building.
Lloyd Ziel, Red Cross Massachusetts communications chief, said the Red Cross will probably vacate the Lowell Street building next May. A search for smaller-sized locations in Peabody is underway.
“We’re looking in this area. The services are going to remain here,” said Ziel.
Named after Red Cross benefactor John A. McCarthy, the building is used as a training site, complete with a mock hospital ward, for people preparing to take the state nurse assistant training test.
“We are not leaving Peabody. If anything, we are reaching out to our partners to help us continue this skills focus,” Ziel said.
Mayor Edward Bettencourt offered a mixed reaction in a statement about the move.
“We are disappointed that the Red Cross will be leaving their Lowell Street headquarters. The relationship between Red Cross and the city has been a long and an especially productive one. We are grateful that the Red Cross will maintain a volunteer and instruction presence in Peabody,” he said.
Ziel acknowledged mobile device technology allows volunteers to mobilize to respond to fires and other disasters without meeting in the Lowell Street building.
“The building has been in the Red Cross family for a long time, but our business model is changing. It’s not cost-effective for us to keep the lights on in a building we’re not utilizing,” said Ziel.
Officially known as the Northeast Massachusetts chapter, the building is owned by a trust and Ziel said the Red Cross uses it under a donation arrangement. Nursing assistant students take 19-day and 27-day classes on Lowell Street in preparation to apply for health aide and nurse assistant jobs.
But Ziel said the building’s value as an office and meeting space has dwindled in an organization founded on volunteers, including people in full-time and part-time positions.
With its headquarters in Medford and chapter offices across the state, the Red Cross has 2,500 Massachusetts volunteers.
Red Cross training and registration coordinator Alex Reddy said the organization’s shift from a centralized to diversified structure means more opportunities to help more people.