By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – American Red Cross chapters in New Albany and Starkville will close at the end of this month while another will be relocated to Oxford.
The restructuring is designed to take the 129-year-old charity in Mississippi from 13 chapters to five.
The Red Cross provides disaster relief services, health and safety training, communications with members of the Armed Forces and disaster preparation and education.
As with many nonprofit organizations, it has felt financial strains in the past two years.
“This new structure is designed to be able to mobilize the community, inspire a new generation of volunteers, strengthen our financial base and enhance service delivery,” said Patty Tucker, executive director of the Northeast Mississippi chapter in Tupelo, which will take leadership of Union County’s operations.
The Oktibbeha County services will now be overseen from a chapter office in Meridian. It is yet to be announced whether either New Albany or Starkville will retain a service center.
“We’ll report to what is now the Key Chapter if we’re still there,” said Becky Wilkes, executive director of the Oktibbeha County chapter. “If we’re gone … I assume the Meridian office will take over the services.”
She noted that the chapter has responded to three major fires and a serious tornado in the past year.
“We received enough donations locally that we did not have to ask national for any funds,” Wilkes said. “That speaks well of our community.”
Sally Zemek said the Union County chapter, which she serves as executive director, also has remained financially sound.
“The Union County chapter has been here 93 years,” she said. “Because (volunteers) had no say in what’s happening here, I think they’re very hurt.”
The restructuring will make Oxford headquarters for the Northwest Mississippi chapter, which will include much of the Delta and fast-growing DeSoto County.
Tucker insists the restructuring will not affect operations.
“Services will not diminish at all,” she said. “This is a decision that was made to enable the American Red Cross to be active for another 129 years.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.