United Way of Greater Portland and United Way of York County plan to merge and rename the combined organization United Way of Southern Maine, the two nonprofit groups said Thursday.

The merger, to take effect July 1, follows extended discussions between the boards of both chapters that began late last year, the two groups said in a news release.

“This decision allows United Way to maximize our stakeholder relationships and increase our operational efficiency, which we expect will result in more funds available for programs and initiatives that improve lives and strengthen communities in southern Maine,” Liz Cotter Schlax, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Portland, said in the release. “This has been an incredibly thorough and thoughtful process, and we are excited to be moving forward.”

Cotter Schlax will become president and CEO of the combined organization, while United Way of York County President and CEO Brian Petrovek, former owner of the Portland Pirates hockey team, is leaving to rejoin the professional hockey industry as president of the Colorado Eagles, an AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

Southern Maine communities will benefit from a continued local presence and focus with the added capabilities and support that a merged organization brings, the groups said.

“Our organizations have a long history of collaboration and shared common missions,” said Diane Garofalo, incoming board chair of United Way of Southern Maine, in the release. “We are thrilled that our partnership is further solidified today.”

This fall, United Way of Southern Maine will launch a unified fundraising campaign to support programs and strategic initiatives across southern Maine, according to the release.

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