New Castle News

September 27, 2011

Cycle complete: New Red Cross director finds you can go home again

Kayleen Cubbal
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — (Second of two parts)



Scott Snyder pretty much has seen it all in his 14 years with the American Red Cross.

But while he cherishes his travels that have taken him across the country, he’s glad to be home.

Snyder, the new executive director of the West Central Pennsylvania Chapter, which includes Red Cross branches in Lawrence, Butler, Beaver and Mercer counties, certainly has had no shortage of adventure and experiences in his 40 years.

And now, back in western Pennsylvania for the first time in more than a decade, his life has come full circle.

“I’ve trusted my instincts about the path my life has been supposed to take,” he said. “So far, it has turned out pretty well.”

He has served the Red Cross in small cities and big ones over the years, but he revels in walking into an office such as the one at 222 N. Mercer St. in downtown New Castle and seeing the sense of history that envelops those who come inside.

“Isn’t this just how you’d expect a Red Cross office to look,” he said with conviction to visitors as he gestured around the historic building filled from basement to the rafters with artifacts, some dating back close to 100 years.

If anyone is not sold on the good works and mission of the Red Cross before meeting Scott Snyder, his enthusiasm and love for his job will leave no doubt.

And while Scott Snyder loves the Red Cross, the Red Cross certainly loves Scott Snyder as well.

He has been selected to serve as national media liaison during several national disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the southern United States in 2005 and, most recently, Hurricane Irene, which rocked the east coast in late August — just two of 70,000 emergencies the Red Cross responds to each year.

Although he severed his ties with the Red Cross for a time six years ago when his job was eliminated, he felt himself drawn back in.

“I left once, but I found destiny leading me back,” he said.



WHERE IT BEGAN

A graduate of Butler High School, Butler County Community College and the Community College of Allegheny County, Snyder already had experience in working in nonprofits when he joined the Red Cross in 1997, in the organization’s Scranton, Pa., office. It took little time for him to begin to climb the ladder and two years later, he was offered a position in financial development in Oshkosh, Wisc.

Like so many others, Snyder’s life changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001. He was part of the Red Cross media relations team that was sent to the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pa.

“Your life is never the same after an event like that,” Snyder said. “You simply don’t go back to being the person you were before.”

Snyder was on hand a week after the tragedy as First Lady Laura Bush attended a memorial service. Snyder watched in admiration as she refused the ride arranged by the Secret Service, instead walking up the hill to the tent where speakers and family members congregated. Once the service was completed, she remained with family members until the last one had left.

“We cannot ease the pain, but this country stands by you,” Bush told the grief-stricken audience. “We will always remember what happened that day and to whom it happened.”

When he left Shanksville, Snyder moved on to the World Trade Center site in New York City. He went on to accept a position with the Red Cross’ Sept. 11 Recovery Program in New York City, where for four years, he continued to aid families of those lost in the attacks.

“Donations poured in to the Red Cross and we found ourselves with $1.07 billion,” he said. “So the Red Cross decided to take that money as it was targeted and help the people affected by the tragedy.”



HITTING THE ROAD

In the spring of 2005, that program was disbanded and Snyder found himself without a job.

“My wife (Kathy Jackson, a former archeologist) and I were OK with it,” he said. “We were ready to leave New York and the hectic lifestyle there. We had saved some money and since we had long talked about traveling across the country, we put our belongings in storage, bought an RV and set out for California. But along the way we stopped in Albuquerque, N.M., fell in love with the place and decided to stay.”

Scott and Kathy were content with their semi-nomadic existence, living in their RV, when the Red Cross tracked him down to assist with Hurricane Katrina.

He was deployed to Houston, where he aided efforts involving more than 50,000 evacuees who were placed at the Astrodome. He then was asked to assist with media relations in San Antonio and spent several months working there, with an occasional break to return to Albuquerque.

When he returned to New Mexico, where he and Kathy already had obtained more permanent living quarters, he officially joined the Red Cross again, serving as emergency services director in 21 of 33 counties in New Mexico.



COMING HOME

In 2009, his life changed one more time when he received a phone call from a friend in Butler.

“I answered my phone and all my friend said, was, ‘she left,’ ” and I said ‘who left?’ ” Snyder said. “My friend said, ‘the executive director of the Butler County Red Cross just resigned, you have to come home.’

“It was a tough decision, because I loved New Mexico,” he said. “But I just couldn’t pass up an offer to return to my roots.”

Snyder, who will split his time between the offices in the four counties he oversees, is a walking encyclopedia of information about the Red Cross and its 130-year history.

“There is much history and tradition involved with the Red Cross,” he said. “Most people aren’t aware of this, but when a former Red Cross nurse dies, her nurse’s pin either has to be returned to the Red Cross or buried with her.”

Despite tough economic times, Snyder says that people always find a way to come through during a time of need.

“I am still so pleasantly surprised at the generosity of people,” he said. “It is what makes the Red Cross just a great place to serve.”

(E-mail: kcubbal@ncnewsonline.com)