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Local Red Cross chapter hires new executive director returning to area;

Local Red Cross chapter hires new executive director returning to area;

new goals include increased regional visibility and volunteer involvement

For people living in seven mid-Missouri counties served by the Columbia office of the American Red Cross, the recent hiring of new Executive Director Mike Odneal can definitely be considered good news especially in times of local disasters, personal emergencies, and when safety training is needed.

It also means a significant increase in the regional activity and awareness of services provided by the local Red Cross chapter in Columbia — and a louder call for eager, dedicated volunteers to help provide the wide range of Red Cross services to the 7-county region.

After several months with a vacancy when the previous executive moved to another chapter in another state, the Boone County Chapter Board of Directors hired Odneal — bringing him back to mid-Missouri from another non-profit organization in Florida.

"We’re definitely glad that Mike wanted to move back to Missouri from Florida," said Randy Gay, Board Chair for the Boone County Chapter. "Perhaps he felt more comfortable dealing with mid-Missouri tornadoes rather than Florida hurricanes."

Odneal grew up in Jefferson City, but spent a portion of his professional career in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Sarasota, Florida.

"My top two priorities for the Red Cross chapter right now start with the letter V: more visibility and more volunteers," said Odneal. "More people need to know about the wide range of services that the Red Cross provides — and we need more volunteers to help provide them throughout our region."

The American Red Cross is a volunteer-driven organization that helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; the organization taught lifesaving skills to millions; and it helped thousands of U.S. armed service members stay connected to their families. Plus, almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States.

On a regional level, the Boone County Chapter office in Columbia serves seven mid-Missouri counties including Boone, Randolph, Howard, Cooper, Saline, Chariton and Carroll. The chapter has responded to hundreds of local and regional emergencies like floods, fires, tornadoes and other disasters, large and small. Plus, the chapter has also trained and informed thousands of area residents to prepare for personal emergency situations like heart attacks, drowning, and other life-threatening conditions.

After graduating from Helias High School and then Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State) for his undergraduate degree, Odneal worked for almost three years at Jefferson City marketing and PR firm Communique, Inc. He then went back to school to receive his Masters degree from the University of Leicester in England thanks to the international Rotary Scholarship program.

Shortly after returning from England, Odneal worked as the Marketing and Research Director at the CBS television affiliate in Tulsa. Subsequent jobs in Tulsa included several marketing, PR and management positions at various Tulsa companies in the satellite, cable and telecommunications industries.

Mike moved back to the area once before in 2002 to work as the Director of College Relations at Westminster College in Fulton. He was subsequently hired as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Sarasota campus of the University of South Florida, where he also oversaw community affairs until being hired into his current position with the Red Cross.

"My wife and I are very happy to be back in mid-Missouri — to be closer to family members who are still living in the area, and to raise our own family," said Odneal.

For more information about the Red Cross, visit or call toll-free 800-359-8829.