February 27, 2010 in Washington Voices

Partners feeling economy’s pinch

Changes to staff, reduction in hours under way
By The Spokesman-Review
File photo

“Where do you cut when the budget doesn’t balance?” asks Ken Briggs, CEO of Spokane Valley Partners, shown in July in the food bank warehouse. The organization has made administrative cutbacks but is still able to provide outreach services.
(Full-size photo)

In these times of economic uncertainty, even outreach programs are put into the position of making cuts.

Spokane Valley Partners, 10814 E. Broadway Ave., is making staff changes to help keep the budget in the black at the outreach center.

Longtime food bank director Barb Bennett, who has been with the food bank since it was an independent entity, will become the distribution coordinator and reduce her hours to halftime starting May 1. Starting July 1, she will work on Wednesdays only.

Connie Nelson, the former program director of Spokane Valley Partners, will become the food bank director on May 1 and reduce her hours to 32 a week.

“Where do you cut when the budget doesn’t balance?” said Ken Briggs, CEO of Spokane Valley Partners.

Briggs was quick to say that although the organization has been forced to make cutbacks administratively, they are still able to provide outreach services to the community.

In 2009, the food bank served 11,498 households, 34,073 individuals and distributed 1,163,631 pounds of food. The clothing bank served 27,336 individuals and the organization spent $59,263 in emergency assistance.

“We have a good basic core of volunteers to keep this place running,” Briggs said.

The organization received help from 27,033 volunteer hours in various forms during 2009 – the equivalent of 13 full-time employees.

“Many of you also know that financial shortfalls compelled the board to make some difficult cuts to operations this year,” Briggs said in a memo to the organization’s volunteers. “Specifically, we eliminated the program director and receptionist positions. We are also on a month-to-month evaluation of whether further cost-cutting measures will be necessary to end the year with significant reserves.”

Briggs said the organization is also making a concentrated effort to find grants for its operational needs. He said that grants for capital funds – buildings and maintenance – are much easier to find.

He said Spokane Valley Partners has received two part-time staff members from Aging and Long Term Care. Cora Yount will work in the mornings as a volunteer coordinator, and Thelma Staley will work in the afternoons as an administrative specialist. The organization will be reimbursed for 100 percent of these employees salaries for 18 months, and the two are being cross-trained in various other capacities.

“Right now that’s all we’ve done,” Briggs said.

Briggs added the organization is being conservative in its spending on administrative costs. He said Spokane Valley Partners spends about 7 percent of its income on administrative costs while many nonprofits run on around 15 percent.

“We’ve done better than a lot of charities have,” he said. “We’re a good value.”

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