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New leader for United Way of Southwest Oklahoma

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LAWTON, Okla._ As fundraising efforts ramp up, the United Way of Southwest Oklahoma has a new leader.

Lauren Ellis, formerly of the United Way of Stephens County, has been named executive director of the much larger southwest Oklahoma chapter.

It was back in January when the United Way of Lawton-Fort Sill expanded to become the all-encompassing southwest Oklahoma chapter. Now, with Ellis in place, the organization says they're looking to expand their services across 11 counties.

“The new expansion and being able to serve the whole region of southwest Oklahoma, instead of just the Lawton-Fort Sill community” is what makes Lauren Ellis excited to get started. “The possibilities of what we're able to do for this community and this region are huge."

Ellis and her team have begun working to beat a fundraising goal of $1.7 million. The southwest Oklahoma chapter helps fund 22 non-profit organizations that would otherwise be financially strained.

“Everyone is familiar with the Red Cross and their emergency management, we have two YMCA (locations), so that's health and wellness, we have two homeless shelters (and) we have the (Lawton) Food Bank.”

Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors help make their services possible. The United Way is built upon three pillars: education, income stability and health and wellness, according to Ellis.

Moving forward, she’s hoping to be able to track the progress of how her office's services are helping to make a positive change in the community.

“Our ultimate goal is sustainable change, and we want to be able to move the needle and move the mark,” she says.

The Altus area will be the first place for expansion, as Ellis believes it’s a rural city that is currently underserved. Across all 11 counties, including two in north Texas, Ellis hopes to soon become more visible in the community to allow people to learn more about what the organization is trying to accomplish.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life in our community."

Of all the money raised locally, 99 percent goes back into local non-profit organizations.

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