Great Plains Red Cross no longer a chapter, services to continue as 'service center' - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Great Plains Red Cross no longer a chapter, services to continue as 'service center'

Lawton_Lawton's Great Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross is no longer a chapter.  On Thursday, officials announced that it will merge with the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma based in Oklahoma City.  What does that mean for people in Lawton and the surrounding area?  Officials say that you will probably not notice any changes in services, and in times of disaster may even see a better local response.

Although Lawton will no longer have its own chapter, the current building will continue to house a service center.  Red Cross officials say it takes money to help people in times of need, and over the past few years, the Regional CEO of the American Red Cross, Vince Hernandez, says the Great Plains Chapter did not have enough cash flow.  It is $100,000 below where its budget should be.  "Instead of continually putting a band-aid over this, and trying to cover a wound that really needs to be sewn, we're going to take care of this right now by making sure the resources are there for the level it needs to be operating at," he said.

By joining the Central Oklahoma Chapter, Hernandez says the former Great Plains Chapter will be able to share resources, including many office functions such as accounting and human resources.  He says they will now be handled by the larger - and financially stronger - organization.  "If we can even alleviate a few of those, then that frees up a great deal of time for people to focus on providing great services," he said.

The Central Oklahoma Chapter plans to hire a new director and fundraising professional to operate out of the Lawton service center.  However, until more money starts coming in, Hernandez says titles for services are irrelevant to him.  "What we're looking to really do is to invest in the chapter here to get it to the level that we feel like it needs to be instead of inching along to get it there," he said.  "We really don't care if it's a ‘chapter' or a ‘service center,' for us it's just making sure there's a good strong Red Cross presence in the community."

In addition to the director and fundraiser, the Central Oklahoma Chapter also will hire a service delivery professional for the Lawton center - an interim director has been appointed at the center while the Red Cross conducts interviews.  As far as the public is concerned, not much is changing.  There will continue to be a center, and the phone number will not change.  The board of directors will remain intact, but will be an advisory board to the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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