New Castle News

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July 27, 2010

Pennsylvania and Ohio cancer societies to merge

NEW CASTLE — The Pennsylvania and Ohio divisions of the American Cancer Society will merge Sept. 1.

The new organization will be named the East Central Division.

Colleen Fitzwater, vice president of marketing and communications of the Pennsylvania Division of the American Cancer Society, said the move is occurring because of the retirement of the Ohio chief executive officer last year. Pennsylvania’s chief executive officer Garry Pincock will remain in charge of the blended agency, she said. He will maintain offices in Hershey and Columbus.

“It made sense to do it now,” Fitzwater said. She noted that prior to the merging of the two agencies, Pennsylvania and Ohio had been among a few stand-alone state divisions left in the United States.

After the official blending, she said, only three states — California, Florida and Illinois — will remain separate.

Fitzwater said the Ohio and Pennsylvania boards both support merging the agencies. The Ohio Division’s board of directors voted in June to blend the two. However, because of the Pennsylvania division’s bylaws, that vote could not be taken until Thursday.

Mike Matis, president of the volunteer leadership council of the Lawrence Unit, said the representative assembly of volunteer councils, as well as the board, had to approve the merger.

He added there had been no opposition.

“This will make us a stronger division,” he said, adding, “There are still things to work out.”

Those details, he said, will include working out regions  within the East Central Division.

Matis said his concern is the “border counties,” which includes Lawrence.

“We will be working with people we don’t know,” he said. “We have had no opportunity to deal with Ohio people.”

Matis said the merger “will change our demographics, but our programs — Relay for Life, Daffodil Days — will continue.”

He noted he looks forward to exchanging ideas with the new Ohio partners.

Matis pointed out the national American Cancer Society supports the merger.

Although Pennsylvania remains a strong fundraiser, Matis said, Ohio money-raising efforts have fallen off in recent years, necessitating personnel cut backs.

Fitzwater said the merger, under consideration for almost a year, will enable the agencies to share resources.

Prior to merging with Pennsylvania, Matis noted, Ohio had looked for a partner, including Michigan. He said that did not appear to be as good a fit as the Pennsylvania partnership.

Fitzwater said services and programs offered through the local offices should not change. Bylaw changes and a new board of directors will be announced next month.

The local chapter office will remain on Wilmington Road, behind Soni’s Restaurant, she said.

Sept. 1 was selected as the official merger date because the cancer society’s fiscal year ends on Aug. 31, Fitzwater pointed out.

This is not the first merger for the American Cancer Society Pennsylvania Division, which was incorporated in 1944. In 1996, it merged with the Philadelphia Division to become the Commonwealth Division. In 1999, it became the Pennsylvania Division.

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