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Heart association celebrates 50 years in little rock: Nonprofit expands current offices to accommodate staff, volunteers. (R&R life outside office).

THE ARKANSAS DIVISION OF the American Heart Association Inc. celebrated its 50th year in Little Rock by rededicating its building in September.

Communications director Lannie Cox said the nonprofit organization expanded its existing building at 909 W. Second St. because it needed more room for its 16 staff members and numerous volunteers who use the facilities daily. The association has been in its present location since 1971.

The AHA increased its size from 5,000 SF to 7,500 SF when it expanded on the Second Street side, adding nine new offices, two meeting rooms and four work stations. It also added a new reception area, a renovated board room, storage space and mail room at a cost of $378,771.

Building expansion efforts began in June 2000 after the AHA Heartland Affiliate Board approved the enlargement, Cox said. Construction began in April, and AHA officially moved into its new offices in September.

The Heartland Affiliate includes six states in the Midwest region: Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, Cox said.

And despite the millions of dollars donated by Americans to disaster relief organizations after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Cox said the AHA has not seen its donations or volunteer hours drop.

"People are still lining up to volunteer [because they] have been awakened to their responsibility for their community," Cox said.

He also said he expects people will continue to volunteer, and the AHA may see an increase in volunteers over the next few months.

According to Cox, awareness of the AHA has grown within the last few years and is expected to continue to grow. The national organization receives more raised funds, planned giving, memorial donations and grants each year. That trend also extends to Arkansas.

Nationally, the AHA received nearly $472 million in fiscal year 2000, which ended in June, and spent more than $448 million of it on educational and outreach programs, management and fund-raising costs, according to IRS Form 990, which details the financial situation of nonprofit organizations.

During the 1999 fiscal year, the AHA brought in $436 million, while it had expenses in excess of $415 million. The remaining money ultimately goes toward the mission of the organization, which is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke." Cox also said much of the organization's money comes from pledges and bequests but is not counted until it is actually received.

The Arkansas chapter also fared better in 2000 than in 1999. According to figures provided by Cox, the Arkansas association raised $2.97 million fiscal 2001, an increase of 15 percent from donations collected in 2000. Of that, $1.53 million came through the Little Rock office (up 12 percent from 2000), and about $750,000 came through the association's Fayetteville office. The geographic origin of the remainder was unspecified.

Cox said these figures show how much the organization has grown to accommodate the generosity of Arkansans, creating the need for an expanded building.

Also, the AMA has become increasingly active by adding new fund-raising events to its list of charity efforts. In February, the AHA will sponsor the Heart Ball and train citizens in Pulaski County how to perform CPR for free in order to increase the survival rate of central Arkansans. There also will be a Heart Walk in Faulkner County and the Riverside Motors Mercedes-Benz/AHA Golf Classic in April. And in May, there will be a central Arkansas Heart Walk.

As Americans age, the need for more donations to fund research and education increases. According to statistics gathered by the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer among women in the United States and in Arkansas Stroke is No. 2 in Arkansas, and one of every two deaths is linked to cardiovascular disease.

RELATED ARTICLE: Heart Association Directors Out In Front

J. D. ASHLEY, A PARTNER with The Ashley Group, began working as a volunteer for the American Heart Association about six years ago.

He was asked by other volunteers to recruit walkers for the annual Heart Walk. The next year, Asheley helped organize the Heart Walk and the Heart Ball.

Ashley said he quickly became part of the AHA "family," and his wife, Kathy, also joined in the effort. The couple earned Volunteer of the Year awards for 2001, he said.

He serves on the North Little Rock board of directors because he wants to increase public awareness about heart disease and stroke. Ashley said he has a family history of heart disease and considers it important to pass the word about this silent killer.

Ashley also supports the AHA be cause of its integrity.

"I know when I give them money, it's snot being squandered. The people and volunteers are giving of their time and money. because they know their money is going to hospitals and doctors doing research," he said.

Vickie Wingfield serves as the community relations director for the Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock where she began working closely with the AMA five years ago.

Having been a volunteer on the Little Rock board for three years, she too has developed a passion for public outreach. Her ultimate goal? For the AHA Heart Walk to become bigger than the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, because heart disease kills more women than cancer, AIDS and car accidents combined.

While education must continue, Wingfield said, the AMA and the board. must shift its focus to include educating the medical community to make them aware of advances made virtually every month. She also believes placing automatic external defibrillators in the hands of average citizens is an important factor in saving lives. Most recently, she has begun working with corporate sponsors that can help fund the purchase of a defibrillator in every community.

Stan Bailey, chairman and CEO of Superior Financial Corp. and Superior Bank, believes the business community should become more involved in financially supporting charities such as the Al-IA. Business leaders also need to be represented on the board because they contribute the majority of money raised by volunteers.

"Ultimately our responsibility is fund-raising for the Heart Association, and therefore additional representation of the contributing sector of the market needs to be represented on the board," he said.

Bailey, chairman of the board, said the AMA is the largest health-related organization in central Arkansas, and rightly so since it fights the largest killer of Americans.

Bailey first became involved with the AHA in Little Rock when he inquired about how he could support the 2001 Heart Ball. He was asked to be the chairman for the AHA's biggest fund-raiser, which raised more than $450,000 last year. And there is still more money to be raised, Bailey said. Organizers hope to raise at least $500,000 at next year's Heart Ball.

Bailey's activism in the AMA has personal significance, as several family members have suffered from heart disease. Bailey's wife also lost her, father to heart problems, he said.

"My family and my wife's family have experienced the benefits of what this organization does," he said.
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Comment:Heart association celebrates 50 years in little rock: Nonprofit expands current offices to accommodate staff, volunteers. (R&R life outside office).
Author:Smith, Alicia H.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Nov 19, 2001
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