Organizational Structure

American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region has sixteen offices in nine states – Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Our organization is divided into six main departments, and while each office offers services in each of these departments, management planning and oversight of each department is directed from a specific office.

Interim Chief Executive Officer
Jennifer Cofer

Jennifer Cofer

Ms. Cofer has over twelve years of experience working in public health and nonprofit sector. In her 8 year tenure at the Lung Association, she has worked in a variety of roles in implementing ALA programs, building asthma coalitions, public health education, fundraising, lobbying and executive administration. She has been employed with the American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region since 2010. She has served as the Vice President of Public Policy providing regional oversight and leadership to the American Lung Association’s policy, advocacy and environmental health programs in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas. Jennifer monitored all policy and regulatory initiatives and ensured the environmental health programs were delivered efficiently and effectively.  She maintains effective relationships with donors, government and community agencies as well as public and private organizations.  She is also skilled at identifying and securing funding to sustain lung health program and advocacy initiatives. 

Ms. Cofer received both her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Education & Administration and Master of Public Health degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has been a Certified Health Educator Specialist since 1999 and a Certified Asthma Educator since 2007. She is active in her local community helping a ministry who serves low-income families and homeless individuals. She is a volunteer fast-pitch softball coach at a local high school. 


Senior Vice President of Marketing, Communications & Volunteer Development
Michelle R. Bernth, M.S.

Michelle Bernth

Ms. Bernth holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. She is an active member of the community, holding volunteer leadership positions with Act Two Theatre, 3 Little Birds 4 Life and SouthSide Early Childhood Center. Within the American Lung Association, Ms. Bernth has served in a number of capacities including as Chair of the Branding and External Communications Task Force, Chair of the Staff Awards Committee and member of the Volunteer Development Committee.

Ms. Bernth is married to Jeff Bernth and they live in Lake Saint Louis with their daughter Sophie.


Senior Director of Human Relations, Operations and Grants
Plesetta L. Clayton, MPA

Plesetta Clayton

Ms. Clayton has more than eighteen years of experience working in the public sector, public health, and in nonprofit administration. Currently, she is the Vice President of Health Promotions providing regional oversight and leadership to the American Lung Association’s mission programs in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas.  She has been employed with the American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region since 2008.  She ensures that all regional programs are delivered efficiently and effectively with measurable outcomes.  She maintains effective relationships with donors, government and community agencies as well as public and private organizations.  She is also skilled at identifying and securing funding to sustain lung health programming and initiatives. 

Ms. Clayton is an active member of the oldest African American sorority in the United States; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, where she has served in a number of leadership capacities. In addition, she received both her Bachelor of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies and Master of Public Administration degree, from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  She is married to Carl Clayton, and they have three children.


Vice President of Fundraising - Northern Region
Mary Kitley

Mary Kitley

Ms. Kitley has been with the American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region since 2007. She currently serves as the Vice President of Fundraising - Northern Region, which includes Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.  She serves as the strategic lead for all special event fundraisers; including regional corporate partnerships, creating event guidelines and staff training.

In 2001, Ms. Kitley was hired by the American Lung Association of Eastern Missouri as an intern.  She earned a BS in Speech Communication from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and went on to be a full-time Development Associate with the organization.  Ms. Kitley left her position to gain experience with two other non-profit organizations, Rebuilding Together St. Louis and the Violence Prevention Center.  She returned to the American Lung Association in 2007 as a Regional Vice President in the St. Louis office.  In 2012 she was promoted to her current position on the regional Senior Team.

Ms. Kitley is dedicated to the mission of the American Lung Association.  She lost her grandmother to lung cancer in 1999, and in 2012, she discovered her young son is asthmatic.  Her son was hospitalized before the age of 2 and she and her husband closely monitor his symptoms and triggers. She and her husband David live in a suburb of St. Louis with their son, Nolan, and two dogs.


Vice President of Fundraising - Southern Region
Merle Eldrige

Merle Eldridge

Ms. Eldridge has been with the American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region since 2005. Merle currently serves as the Vice President of Fundraising – Southern Region which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. 
Ms. Eldridge came to the American Lung Association from Dillard’s where she was an Area Sales Manager for 6 years. She also has a strong tie to the mission of the American Lung Association having lost her father to lung disease after years of tobacco use.

Ms. Eldridge holds a BS from Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi. Within the American Lung Association, Ms. Eldridge has served in different capacities including currently serving on the National Individual Giving Task Group. She also serves as the strategic plan lead for Corporate, Foundation and Individual giving for the region.

Ms. Eldridge is married to Brad Eldridge and can be found any given weekend at a soccer or baseball field cheering on her two wonderful sons.