Bend’s Community Center Board President Bruce Abernethy announced Saturday that "due to financial uncertainties and other difficulties -- pending an unforeseen benefactor or organization stepping forward -- the center would cease operations as of Friday, September 14."
The rest of their announcement, in full:
As part of this action, BCC has let go Executive Director Taffy Gleason. Abernethy said that Linda Heatley, who formerly was BCC’s deputy director until 2010, will serve as interim executive director to oversee closure of BCC’s programs, including its thrift store, senior meals and Sunday Feed the Hungry programs.
Abernethy said that the board had been tracking the center’s financial well-being for almost a year and that the organization had worked hard to restructure programs to cut costs and streamline operations. But, ultimately that was not enough.
Abernethy said that BCC’s continued financial difficulties jeopardized grant funding that BCC had been counting on to continue its operations. Coupled with slowing donations in a down economy, there was no way that BCC could remain financially viable.
“We grappled with this decision and fully understand the huge impact this will have on many people who depend upon BCC. But rather than postpone what appeared to be the inevitable and run up further costs, we felt it better to make the decision to close BCC operations at this time,” Abernethy said.
Abernethy said his hope and the hope of other board members is that by dissolving BCC as a nonprofit, this would free up the possibility that a successor organization could be found or could be formed that would pick up some or all of the programs that had made BCC such an important community asset over the past 10 years.
The non-profit was formed in 1999 and along with the Fifth Street facility operates a thrift store on NE Thurston Avenue and other programs at the Warehouse at 350 SW Industrial Way.
Along with rental space for events from weddings to meetings, it has run the region's largest food kitchen, employment training for youth, a BikeShed that refurbishes bikes and gives them to the homeless, and a diaper bank for infants and seniors.
Asked what would happen with the senior meals program, which moved back to the brick building at 1036 NE Fifth St. – Bend’s original senior center – and out of the new senior center on Reed Market Road, Abernethy told NewsChannel 21, “We don’t know 100 percent.”
“I met with (the United Senior Citizens of Bend) board this morning for about an hour and laid out what I know, why we did what we did, what we hope to see happen,” he said.
The Central Oregon Council on Aging (COCOA) contracts with BCC to to provide lunches to seniors, provided through the Older Americans Act as the area's "agency on aging," said executive officer Pamela Norr.
"We just found out about this transition late this afternoon," Norr wrote, "and are diligently working to come up with contingency plans to ensure that seniors will continue to have food going forward in the event of the community center ceasing operations."
“BCC doesn’t have any money to go forward,” Abernethy said. “A lot of dominoes started falling, and once they started falling, there’s no circuit-breakers.”
Two special board meetings were held, and Abernethy said the bottom line was, “We didn’t see a future for BCC at this point. At this date, we’re quite over-extended.”
“A lot of anger was heard” over the move, he added. “This seems like a very abrupt decision by the board. I totally understand that it feels that way. From the board’s perspective, we’ve been heading this way for the past four or five months.”
Abernethy cited a sharp drop-off in volunteers and folks who are “completely burned out at the board level. I told the board by e-mail in June I was kind of burned out and wanted to find a way to transition off the board.”
“We didn’t have the critical mass of people to rally the troops around BCC,” the former Bend city councilor said. He added that they had been talking with other non-profits such as United Way and that “I think there are players out there to salvage some of the programs.”