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Local chapter warns against state Red Cross

 

Tim Pratt

 

The conflict between current and former American Red Cross officials continued Monday at the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors meeting as former members of the local chapter''s board of directors showed up to warn supervisors to be wary of state American Red Cross officials'' promises. 

 

Carol Moss Read, former chairman of the American Red Cross of Oktibbeha County''s board of directors, told supervisors to be skeptical when listening to state Red Cross officials'' promises of keeping an office open in Oktibbeha County. 

 

"They say they''re going to remain here in Oktibbeha County, but they won''t give any kind of timeline for how long they plan to keep an office open," Read said. 

 

Read''s statement to supervisors came during the public comment portion of the meeting, prior to an appearance by Mark Smith, interim CEO of the American Red Cross in Mississippi. Smith assured the board the Red Cross will continue to operate in Oktibbeha County and said he is looking for two people to fill full-time positions at the county''s office on Felix Long Drive. Neither Smith nor Paige Roberts, interim director of communications for the American Red Cross in Mississippi, said they know how long the office in Oktibbeha County will remain open. 

 

Previously, Smith has said only one Red Cross office will remain open in the Golden Triangle. Offices currently exist in Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Clay counties. 

 

"Right now, we''re going to leave the offices open in Columbus, West Point and Starkville with the intention of looking for a viable solution in the Golden Triangle down the road," Roberts said. "But, right now, it''s hard to put a time frame on this. We''re just leaving these offices open while we concentrate on other issues in the state." 

 

"We''re leaving an office there (in Oktibbeha County) and, quite frankly, it could always be open," she added. 

 

Considering 21 of the 22 members of the Oktibbeha County chapter''s board of directors resigned after the American Red Cross announced a statewide realignment, including Read and Chapter Director Becky Wilkes, supervisors warned Smith he might have a tough time gathering local support for the Red Cross. 

 

Wilkes, former Oktibbeha County Red Cross Program Coordinator Connie Malone and others already have taken the initial steps to form another organization which would work under the county''s Emergency Management office and respond to disasters, much like the Red Cross. 

 

"I think the two sides need to work toward the reconciliation process or the people who really need these services are going to suffer," District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said.

 

 

 

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