27 months ago I started working at Joel's Place. The first year and a half were lived in crisis. We were behind in our bills. We were behind in our payroll. We were way behind in our mortgage. Money was not coming in and we were losing donors, staff and volunteers regularly. There were two distinct moments over that period of time that we were only 6 weeks away from closing. I actually wondered if I had been brought here to close down the organization.
The Staff, the Board and I worked at clarifying who we are and what our mission was. We slashed the budget down by 2/3. We had a lot of turnover as we searched for the right mix of Board and Staff. I did a lot of speaking in the community, writing grants, talking with donors, building partnerships, writing and praying. A lot of praying.
This past week saw the culmination of the efforts of the past 27 months come together in one piece of good news after another.
- We received a grant from the Rasmusson Foundation to upgrade our security system. That is $15,000 that will go into making this facility safer and easier to monitor. Special thanks to Kelli and the staff, Jeff Baird from Rasmusson, Mike Setterberg, Mark Lawson and Brian Palmer for their technical expertise and input over the years.
- We received a grant from the Murdock Foundation to fund a Fund Development Coordinator position that will work with me on grants, fundraising events, donor management and follow-up. This is the most coveted position in the non-profit sector and will catapult us to a new level of economic viability. A very special thanks to John Franklin from Murdock, the Board of Directors, Sarah Arnold, Black Gold and especially Chris Huffman (our Board President) for helping make this thing happen.
- We were able to pay off our balloon payment this week. We found a local investor who was willing to partner with us and enter into a 15 year payment agreement. This allows us to:
- Dramatically lower our monthly expenditures
- Pay off the balloon payment
- Pay off our Key Bank line of credit from an event 6 years ago
- Begin investing in an Operating Reserve.
- We have come to a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club to provide dinners for them under the CACFP food program. This is a USDA reimbursement program that will actually make our cafe profitable while feeding a lot of great kids each day. Special thanks to the State of Alaska CACFP program, Sarah Nichols from B&G club, Jacquie Bourne, Johnnie Avakumoff and the rest of the staff who help with food preparation.
So now it is time to dream. Now is the time to think about where we want to grow and what we want to develop and how to bless this community with all the abundant resources that live within these walls. I am naturally a crisis manager, not a dreamer...but it is a hat I am willing to try on. I welcome your thoughts, ideas, input, dreams and hopes for what Joel's Place can become. I was not alone in getting us through crisis and I have no desire to be alone as Joel's Place matures and becomes a force in this region.
Come along. Join us and see what comes next.