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Merced/Mariposa Red Cross loses local charter

The Merced/Mariposa Counties Red Cross is de-chartered beginning today, but don't worry -- the charity isn't leaving the area in the lurch.

Larry Reed, executive director of the local Red Cross, said that the local offices will become a branch operation of the Fresno/Madera Counties Red Cross.

"The services will still be here, but in a different structure," Reed said.

Two people at the office got laid off Thursday, and another was let go last April. Reed said that no paid personnel will man the 18th Street office, but volunteers will be available to take donations.

"We have been downsizing for a while. This used to be a six-person office," Reed said.

Larry Fortmuller, public information officer for Red Cross, said that local offices will become more of a volunteer effort and the services will still be available. "We are a charity and we depend on the people," Fortmuller said.

The organization will continue to hold CPR and first aid training at the office. Fortmuller said that the downsizing has been planned for a long time.

With the Telegraph Fire in Mariposa burning homes and forcing people out on the street, Fortmuller said some people believe the expenses of caring for Mariposa-area people are the reason for the cutbacks. "It's been planned for months," he said. "We are still here, still helping the evacuees."

Reed said that there are about 35 Red Cross volunteers working in Mariposa.

Although donations to the Red Cross have been down during the past few months because of the slacke economy, the public has turned out in droves to help with the Triangle fire.

"The volunteers have done a wonderful job in Mariposa," Reed said. "We will continue to serve the county when disasters like this hit."

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or