December 10, 2009 in Washington Voices

Valley Meals short on funds

Nonprofit finds donations down, need growing
By The Spokesman-Review
 

How to help

Valley Meals on Wheels is in need of donations to help pay for meals delivered to homebound seniors and served at several meal sites. Call (509) 924-6976 to donate or for more information.

Valley Meals on Wheels executive director Pam Almeida is nervously eyeing her bottom line, fearing her annual fundraising drive won’t bring in enough money to avoid cuts.

She has collected $20,000 in donations since Oct. 1 and needs to have $50,000 on hand by the end of the year. Donations are down so far this year compared with previous years.

“A lot of people are donating, but they’re not donating as much,” she said.

The fund drive isn’t only needed for next year’s efforts, but this year’s as well.

“I’m $9,000 short of buying the food that I need for the end of the year,” she said.

Almeida’s organization now provides meals for all home delivery routes and meal sites in Spokane County except those in Cheney and those run by Mid-City Concerns in Spokane. Setting up a kitchen earlier this year drained the organization’s reserves, making the annual fundraising drive even more crucial.

“A strong nonprofit should have three to six months’ working capital,” Almeida said. “It gave us a bit of a cushion. Starting the kitchen took a lot of that. We don’t have that cushion anymore.”

Bills that used to be paid right away might sit for bit. “Right now money has to come in before I pay bills, basically,” she said.

Valley Meals on Wheels is feeling the pinch from all sides. Not only are private donations down, but so are donations from service clubs that usually contribute annually. Seniors who receive the meals are asked to make a suggested donation, but that income is also down. “It used to be a quarter of the people couldn’t pay anything,” she said. “Now it’s up to 40 percent. That has a huge impact.”

The $50,000 Almeida is looking for will not rebuild the nonprofit’s reserves. It is simply what is needed to help pay the monthly bills that reach $45,000.

“In the past I struggled to make sure we’re not in the red,” she said. “This time it’s struggling to make sure there isn’t a cut, that we can continue to serve anybody.”

As part of that effort, Almeida is looking for ways to utilize her kitchen to make money, perhaps by renting it out or catering events.

It’s a point of pride that Valley Meals on Wheels has never had a waiting list, Almeida said. She’s determined not to be forced to do that. “That’s something we all feel very strongly about,” she said. “We are committed to making sure we’re serving everybody still. We will find a way to do that.”


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