BLOOMINGTON — Lyn Hruska, the smiling face of the American Red Cross of the Heartland and a force in Central Illinois disaster planning and response since 1997, has been promoted to a position with the Red Cross regional office in Peoria.

Hruska, executive director of the Heartland chapter, has been named chief development officer for Red Cross’s 45 Central Illinois counties.

“I will be developing resources for the Red Cross and connecting people to the work of our volunteers,” said told The Pantagraph on Thursday night after informing the chapter board and fundraising committees of her decision. She will begin her new job Oct. 28.

“I have been fortunate to work with an incredible board, staff and volunteers,” Hruska said. “But I have been offered an exciting opportunity to serve the organization in this new way.”

Hruska, 54, who lives with her family on their farm at Normal’s west edge, plans to remain in the community.

“I’m not saying goodbye,” she said. “I’m widening my circle.”

The chapter board, in consultation with the regional office, will name an interim executive director who will work as a search committee looks for Lyn’s replacement, said board Chairwoman Leanna Bordner, ISU deputy director of athletics. “The timeline is to be determined,” she said.

“Lyn has given us 16 phenomenal years,” Bordner said. “She has been the face of the Red Cross and kept people engaged in what we are doing here.

“We’re very sad and disappointed to lose Lyn … but we’re equally proud of her accepting this position. She still will impact what we do in Bloomington-Normal.”

Red Cross work includes disaster relief, blood services and support for members of the military and their families.

Hruska oversaw Heartland operations as the chapter reorganized and grew to serve six counties (McLean, Livingston, Ford, LaSalle, Iroquois and Putnam) even as the chapter’s staff was cut as part of a Red Cross national restructuring. The chapter has six employees and a budget of $1.2 million and relies more than ever on its 500 volunteers.

Hruska has been involved in several community efforts, including $1 million raised within a month of Sept. 11, 2001, for survivors of the terrorists’ attacks and their families; $7.1 million collected for Hurricane Katrina survivors; a program to help Katrina survivors who relocated here; and Operation Porchlight for families of troops deployed overseas.

“Things that started with disasters and ended with people coming together — those are the highlights.”