Red Cross merges Lancaster with York, Chester chapter

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By Johnathan Ryan

The Lancaster County Chapter of the American Red Cross has merged with the York and Chester county chapters to form the Upper Palmetto Chapter.

Teresa Ackerman, executive director of the local chapter, acknowledged that the local chapter has struggled financially in recent years. Being part of a larger chapter will help meet national headquarters' fundraising expectations, she said.

The goal for a local chapter is always to be self-sufficient, she said Friday after the merger was announced.

"It's easier to meet those expectations with a stronger group," Ackerman said, noting that the Lancaster County chapter has always enjoyed close relationships with the York and Chester county chapters.

Ackerman said the new chapter is looking at possible cost savings by reducing paid administrative staff by possibly consolidating some staff positions.

Mergers of local Red Cross chapters have been the trend in South Carolina and the rest of the country, Ackerman said. When she became executive director of the chapter here seven years ago, there were 2,000 chapters nationwide. Now there are only 700, she said.

"It makes sense from a business standpoint," she said. "It's the right thing to do."

The Lancaster County chapter, founded in 1917, was one of only two chapters in South Carolina to not consolidate with another nearby chapter.

"Lancaster County held out for a while," Ackerman said.

Ackerman sees the merger as an opportunity to provide higher levels of services since the three-county group will now share most materials and volunteer resources. That will enable the larger chapter to respond more efficiently to higher levels of need.

Even with the merger, one important thing won't change.

"The money donated in Lancaster County will stay here," Ackerman said.

The American Red Cross is supported solely from private donations, and 94 cents of every dollar is used for its services of emergency and disaster relief and educational programs, which include various lifesaving classes.

The local chapter's board will be become an advisory board to the Upper Palmetto board, on which the local chapter will have representation.

"I am excited about the merger," said Sherry Archie, chairwoman of the local board. "This means a greater strength and Red Cross presence for our residents in Lancaster County. By way of this new alliance, the Red Cross is doubling its capacity and resources in order to better serve our local communities in times of need."

The main office for the Upper Palmetto Chapter will be located in Rock Hill. The Lancaster County chapter will maintain its offices in the Connelly Building located at 114 Williams St.

"Lancaster County residents can still call 283-4072 or visit the Lancaster Chapter to obtain single-family fire relief, to obtain help with military communications, to donate blood, or to take a lifesaving class," Archie said.

To support the efforts of the Upper Palmetto Chapter, visit yorkcountyredcross.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities, making financial donations or giving blood.

Contact Johnathan Ryan at 416-8416 or jryan@thelancasternews.com