Neighbor: Connie Hensler

Published 6:15 am Monday, April 10, 2017

By Melanie Ruberti

LaGRANGE – The Daily News’ weekly Neighbors series features one person from LaGrange and the surrounding area. This week we sought out Connie Hensler, executive director of the American Red Cross of Central Midwest Georgia. She and the organization are about to celebrate a big milestone in our community.

LaGrange Daily News: How long have you lived in LaGrange / Troup County?

Connie Hensler: “I have lived in LaGrange for 29 years.”

LDN: Where did you go to school?

Hensler: “I graduated from Georgia Tech.”

LDN: Tell us about your family.

Hensler: “My husband Hank and I will celebrate our 28th anniversary this year. Hank works for Milliken and Company. In his spare time, you can find him on the soccer field, refereeing games.

“We have two children. Our son Blake graduated from Auburn University and works with the Federal Aviation Administration in their engineering department. Our daughter Grace is a junior at Troy University in Troy, Alabama. She is majoring in Risk Management and Insurance. Both of our children grew up in LaGrange and graduated from LaGrange High School. Our family attends First Baptist Church on the Square.”

LDN: What do you do for a living?

Hensler: “I am the executive director of the American Red Cross of Central Midwest Georgia. I have worked with our local Red Cross Chapter for almost 11 years. During that time, we (ARC) have grown from serving four counties to 20 counties. We have three office locations including Macon and Warner Robins, but LaGrange is considered our chapter headquarters.

This June will mark the 100th anniversary of the American Red Cross in Troup County. In 1917 … a chapter was organized in Troup County. Since that time, we have been we have been very active in supporting this community. We are proud of our longstanding service and look forward to celebrating our “Century of Service” this year.”

LDN: What do you enjoy most about your career?

Hensler: “The mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. The opportunity to help make that mission into a reality is one of the things I like the most about what I do. I often explain (to people) that without our volunteers and donors, our mission would never happen.

“I am fortunate to work with a wonderful team of volunteers who work tirelessly to prepare for and respond whenever and wherever there is a disaster … Of course, it is always a pleasure to say thank you to our donors.

“I also enjoy sharing what we do (ARC chapter) with the community – and hearing their Red Cross stories. Sometimes people don’t realize all that we do: from facilitating emergency messages between military members and their families at home, to supporting community blood drives, plus offering classes on CPR and First Aid in addition to (providing) direct disaster assistance.

LDN: What are some of the challenges of your job?

Hensler: “Some of the challenges we face are similar to other nonprofit organizations. We are always recruiting volunteers to help deliver our services and we are always in need of additional funds to make our services possible.

“The Red Cross is 96 percent volunteer-led and there are so many ways for volunteers to get involved with our chapter.

“We are not a government agency. Donations to support our chapter come from corporate partners, individuals, foundations, grants and the United Way of West Georgia.

“We do have an annual Golf “Fore” event in September to raise money for the Red Cross.”

LDN: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Hensler: “One of the most rewarding aspects of working with the American Red Cross is knowing that we can and do impact lives. Seeing the relief on someone’s face when we provide assistance … following a disaster, makes all that we do worthwhile.

“… we also help our communities prepare before disasters happen.

“The most common disaster that we respond to is a home fire. Two years ago, the Red Cross embarked on a “Home Fire Campaign” in an effort to reduce and eliminate deaths and injuries caused by fires … we work with community partners to install smoke alarms and educate families on fire prevention and preparedness …

“Statistics show you only have about two minutes to get out of a home once a fire starts. Having a working smoke alarm can mean the difference in life and death.

“Last October, we visited 115 homes and installed over 300 alarms in Troup County. Knowing that we could prevent a tragedy makes the Home Fire Campaign one of our most rewarding preparedness initiatives.”

LDN: What other local organizations or clubs are you a member of?

Hensler: “I am a member of the LaGrange Rotary Club and a Junior Service League Sustainer. I have served as the Treasurer of Laurel Garden Club for the past two years. Our Red Cross chapter belongs to the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce and we are a United Way agency.”

LDN: What do you like most about the community?

Hensler: “There are so many things to like and enjoy about LaGrange. I loved raising my children here and getting to be involved in their extracurricular activities: from sports to dance and everything in between.

“I love the closeness of the community and how supportive everyone is of each other. I think it’s an exciting time to live in LaGrange with the growth and development that is happening.

“We are so fortunate to have a beautiful lake, an amazing amphitheater and a host of other things to look forward to right here at home.

“On behalf of the Red Cross in this community, I appreciate how giving everyone is of their time, financial resources and even their blood. We have terrific partners. By working together, the American Red Cross is able to meet our mission each and every day.”

‘Neighbors’ is a weekly series by the Daily News that highlights community members. To nominate a person to be featured call 706-884-7311 or message us on our Facebook page: