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Codding steps down as Red Cross director

By Paul Huggins 340-2395

Blood may be thicker than water, but water proved more appealing for Susan Codding.

The director of the Morgan-Lawrence County Chapter of the American Red Cross is retiring next week and will leave Decatur, the place she's called home the past 19 years.

She's heading to Dadeville, where she and her husband, Charles, have a place on Lake Martin.

"I've been in Decatur longer than any place in my life," Codding said. "It's where my kids grew up, and it's home, so it's hard to leave. I always told my husband I wanted to retire in Decatur unless we could find a place on the water. Well, water won out."

Codding, 57, leaves behind a long list of accomplishments in the volunteer and nonprofit world. She was active in her children's activities such as schoolroom mother and band booster, served on church committees and once was president of Decatur Newcomers Club before entering the nonprofit sector as a professional.

When she ended her Newcomers tenure, Volunteer Center of Morgan County Director Mary K. Braddock immediately persuaded her to join her organization — first as a board member, then as volunteer referral coordinator.

"I didn't even know what that was, but I said sure," Codding said.

Soon she was a program director, overseeing Connect Decatur and Service Learning. After 61/2 years learning the ins and outs of volunteerism, she accepted a new challenge of becoming the local Red Cross chapter's first director of volunteers.

It had volunteers, but there was no structure, she said, and the organization wanted her to develop a youth volunteer program.

Codding said she developed orientation classes, handbooks and the registration process to give the volunteer program structure, and called on many of her youth contacts from the volunteer center to help her build a Red Cross youth program.

Drawing youth volunteers

The organization didn't draw youth volunteers prior to Codding's arrival, but in a few years it began pulling in 100 annually. She helped start the Red Cross Club at Decatur High School, developed a partnership with Parkway Medical Center to screen its youth volunteers and started the You Have the Right program to encourage high schoolers 17 and older to donate blood. Other chapters have since copied that program.

With her success came more duties, and Codding was promoted to assistant director. Two and half years ago, she replaced Jackie Buck as director.

"Director of volunteers was the best job and the most fun I ever had," Codding said, but she said she applied for director because she thought she could improve fundraising.

The annual Heroes campaign is on pace to raise $45,000 this year, the most in its history. Codding also helped start a new major gifts campaign two years ago that raised $60,000 its first year.

The success of the latter campaign surprised her, and Codding attributes that achievement to the all-star group of fundraisers, John Caddell, Barrett C. Shelton Jr., Dr. George Hansberry and Jerry Reed.

"That put us on firm financial footing," she said, listing that as one of the Red Cross' proudest accomplishments during her short tenure.

She also listed increasing the staff size from five to seven, developing a more diverse board of directors, the chapter's effectiveness in helping Hurricane Katrina victims and recently being named one of the Top 80 chapters in America.

She said Lee County's Red Cross has already contacted her about joining its organization, but she's undecided on how she will serve next.

"I fully expect to be involved in some way," Codding concluded. "As I tell our volunteers, Red Cross is for life."

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