Hello and welcome to my column. In case you weren’t aware of it, there have been some positive changes recently in our local American Red Cross office. I believe these changes will benefit the entire community and area in the future.

For those of you who may not know, the American Red Cross provides domestic disaster relief that focuses on people’s immediate needs. This includes food, shelter, and health and other human services. The American Red Cross also feeds emergency workers in times of disaster relief. There are many, many more services provided by the Red Cross.

Pontotoc County has had its own chapter of the American Red Cross for many years. This chapter has always performed admirably whenever called upon. Many of you have volunteered locally and, for that, we thank you.

While this commitment to service has not changed, the organizational structure has. This realignment of resources actually started about a decade ago. In 1998, the Cleveland County chapter merged with the Garvin County chapter and annexed the McClain County service area. As of this merger and expansion, the Heart of Oklahoma chapter was born.

In July 2006, the Pontotoc County chapter was acquired by the Heart of Oklahoma chapter and converted into a branch. The Heart of Oklahoma chapter now serves all four counties, which have a combined population of approximately 317,000.

Before the realignment, when Pontotoc County was still a stand-alone chapter, all communications were made with the American Red Cross regional office in Houston, Texas. This regional office handled communications in six states – a huge area.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region in 2005, it underscored a need for better organization within the American Red Cross. After all, it’s all about getting the resources to those who need them as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This realignment will be of great benefit to Ada and Pontotoc County. When our community experiences an emergency, the response and the resources will be more readily available. It’s the difference in speaking to Norman, rather than Houston.

I would also like to take this opportunity to formally welcome Brandy Albritton as the new Pontotoc County branch manager. Stop by the Irving Center to say hello, or give her a call at (580) 332-2402. If you’re interested, the Red Cross could use more volunteers!

I hope you enjoyed this column. Be sure to check back every other week for more. To read more of my columns, visit www.adaok.com/donna_york.htm. Drop me a line at mayor@adaok.com and share your thoughts with me. I’ll keep you informed!

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