A dwindling budget, including the loss of a $100,000 private grant, has prompted the Del Norte Family Resource Center Board of Directors to dramatically downsize.
People queue up for a past backpack giveaway at the Family Resource Center. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
The non-profit organization plans to vacate its current location at 494 Pacific Ave. as of June 30, said Executive Director Jennifer England. Its Board of Directors plans to relocate the program, and volunteers will run what will now be the FRC’s main remaining program, the annual backpack giveaway for local students, she said.
England said she and the other staff members will lose their jobs after June 30.
FRC Board President Irene Tynes could not be reached for comment.
“(The Board’s) intention is to find another facility and to start up and re-evaluate and see what programs are needed in the community,” England said. “We’ll be strictly volunteer-run and we’ll go from there and reorganize. Then we’ll have a plan.”
In addition to the backpack giveaway, the FRC provided a range of services for children.
The FRC currently rents office space to other nonprofits and agencies, provides a child development room and a venue for the county Social Services Branch to offer family reunification services, England said.
For the past five years, the FRC has rented the building for $1 per year from First 5 Del Norte, England said. Under its lease, the FRC Board had to give 60 days’ notice to the First 5 Del Norte Commission to vacate the building.
The other agencies and services that are provided out of the FRC building will still be available to the public, said First 5 Del Norte Executive Director Patricia Vernelson
First 5 Del Norte is a state-funded program that offers services to parents and caregivers and to children up to 5 years old. It’s part of First 5 California, which was created using funds from a 50-cent tax to each cigarette pack that was approved by voters in 1998.
Due to First 5’s narrow focus, the FRC was set up to serve parents and caregivers with children older than 5, said Dr. Warren Rehwaldt, chairman of the First 5 Del Norte Commission. The organization was also intended to do fundraising that First 5 as a government program couldn’t do, he said.
“A private nonprofit administering the building and running programs could do fundraising that we as a tax entity can’t do,” Rehwaldt said. “It gives them more flexibility in raising funds for their programs.”
The FRC then collects rent from the other agencies and organizations that use the building, including offices belonging to the County Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Redwood Community Action Agency and Pacific Child and Family Associates, which are based in Humboldt County, England said.
“We thought it would be a good way to get some services here that we just don’t have in our community and get some rental income,” she said.
Income from the rents and user fees the FRC collected were intended to cover its operational costs, but much of those expenses were actually covered with a $100,000 grant from the S.H. Cowell Foundation, Rehwaldt said. He said he learned during budget discussions with the FRC Board that at least two-thirds of its operational expenses were paid for by the Cowell grant.
Much of the FRC’s financial difficulty comes from losing the Cowell grant, England said. The FRC Board found out earlier this year that it would no longer receive that funding, she said. Another concern was that the board knew the lease it had with First 5 was going to drastically change when it was up for renewal in the middle of the fiscal year, England said.
“We didn’t know what the new arrangement would be,” she said. “Coupled with losing our funding, (our budget) was going to be tight anyway.”
Now that the FRC is vacating the building, the First 5 Del Norte Commission will manage the rents and user fees that FRC had collected, Rehwaldt said. However, First 5 Del Norte commissioners don’t want to remain in the property manager role for long, he said.
“We have to take on the role by necessity,” Rehwaldt said. “It’s not going to be impossible for us, it’s just that for almost five years now we have not been involved in management, the monitoring of leases and taking care of the people who are there. It’s branching out again for us.”
First 5 plans to enter into new leases with the agencies that use the FRC Building, Vernelson said.
“There are multiple agencies and organizations here who serve children,” she said, adding that the Child Abuse Council Prevention Council and school readiness programs are other organizations that use the building. “None of that should change.”
Until it vacates the building June 30, the FRC will be open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m.