Tahoe-Truckee’s Project MANA relocating after non-renewal of grants
May 25, 2016
Fight Hunger Fast
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INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — While shuttling truckloads of food to North Lake Tahoe-Truckee communities four days a week, local nonprofit Project MANA serves roughly 3,000 individuals and families every year in an effort to quell the incidence of hunger throughout the region.
Playing a central role in Project MANA's hunger relief efforts has been the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, which for 20 years has provided funding to the nonprofit, including resident and storage grants in the Donald W. Reynolds Community Non-Profit Center in Incline Village for the past 14 years.
Come July 1, however, the center will no longer be home for Project MANA (Making Adequate Nutrition Accessible), as Parasol this spring opted to not renew its grants with the agency.
"We were very surprised," Heidi Allstead, co-executive director of Project MANA, said in an interview last week, adding that the nonprofit had a meeting with Parasol to discuss its annual grant renewal application on April 20.
However, Allstead said, "there was no conversation; there was not an opportunity for us to say anything."
Prior to the meeting, according to Project MANA, the agency was attempting to address the requests laid out to them in a letter from Parasol in preparation for its annual grant renewal application.
When asked last week, both organizations declined to specify the nature of the requests.
"We addressed all of their requests to make sure that we would comply," said Project MANA Board of Trustees President Barbara Kay. "Some of the requests, we thought we offered good solutions; some of the requests would've required additional expenses."
PARASOL IS 'VERY DISAPPOINTED'
"But the bottom line," Kay continued, "was that we have to do things according to health department standards, and for the past five years, we've got 100 percent when the health department comes — and they can come any time they want — to review us. So everything like that was all in order."
With that, Kay said, Project MANA submitted a letter back to Parasol in an effort to "work with them, so we could solve these issues."
Parasol, however, feels its requests were standard practice and non-negotiable, as spelled out by Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation CEO Claudia Andersen in an email to the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza:
"We were very disappointed when Project MANA's board informed the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation board that their organization no longer desired to meet the basic, long-standing requirements necessary to receive grants for office space and storage space within the DWR Center. We are especially saddened since Parasol has strongly supported their organization throughout our history; including grant funding totaling well over $1 million. While we may disagree with their decision, we respect their choice and wish them well in their next phase of development."
Despite the need to relocate, Project MANA's board and staff is grateful for Parasol's support through the years, Kay said.
"We were very fortunate that were able to be in the building for 14 years," she said. "It was a wonderful place for any nonprofit to be because our operating expenses were so much lower — we could devote a lot of what we received in funds to help our community."
With its partnership with Parasol ending June 30, Project MANA is intensely focused on two immediate needs: finding a home and fundraising.
Without the financial subsidy the grants from Parasol provided, Project MANA's operational budget will increase $50,000 per year, Allstead said.
On top of that, "We'll need about $50,000 within the next month before we're able to move," added Allstead, noting the agency's pressing financial needs include new office and warehouse space, office furniture, refrigeration equipment, rent and utilities.
With that in mind, the agency is launching a capital campaign with a target of raising $250,000 by year's end — $150,000 of that it will need over the course of the summer.
"It's pretty intense," Barbara said. "It's very difficult when we're now going to have to raise $250,000. We would never had to think about anything that large."
In terms of a new base of operations, Project MANA is in need of roughly 1,500 square feet for food storage — perishable and non-perishable — as well as a walk-in refrigerator and freezer.
Currently, Allstead said, the agency is eying a warehouse and small office in Truckee along with an office space in Incline Village.
Though Project MANA is in an unanticipated transitory phase, its distribution of mobile food pantry services will not be disrupted, Allstead said.
The agency currently distributes food at the Fairway Community Center in Tahoe City on Mondays, the Community Arts Center in Truckee on Tuesdays, the Community House in Kings Beach on Wednesdays, and St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Incline Village on Thursdays.
In Incline, Project MANA also used to distribute food from the DWR Center. However, in December 2015 it moved to St. Patrick's due to a lack of space and parking availability at the center, according to the agency.
"We will be making sure food gets to each distribution site on time and the same as we always do every week," said Allstead, adding, "This (fundraising) campaign that we're launching is critical for our organization to maintain our services and to keep giving food out to our community."
Especially since Project MANA is aiming to bump up the amount of canned goods, fresh produce, milk, juice and more it gives out to area residents in need of nutrition.
"We give out about three bags of food per family right now," Allstead said. "We want to increase that per family size, which we haven't officially done yet. Part of our strategic plan is giving out more food to the community we serve."
The agency also provides emergency food boxes for individuals and families who cannot attend weekly food distribution or need additional food.
While operating in Parasol's DWR Center, Project MANA has worked daily with two other social service-focused agencies housed in the building — Tahoe SAFE Alliance and Tahoe Family Solutions.
With its impending relocation, Project MANA's collaboration with its fellow social service agencies may be affected, Allstead said.
"We work together daily through referrals and service integration," she continued. "However, this move may disrupt our collaboration and make it more challenging for the community we serve in that we will no longer be under the same roof."
Notably, Project MANA and Tahoe SAFE Alliance — along with North Tahoe Family Resource Center — also are co-located in Kings Beach at the Community House.
Opened in 2014 on Bear Street, Community House is a joint effort by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Placer County, the S.H. Cowell Foundation, and the three agencies have office space in the center.
'WE'LL GO FORWARD'
It's no question that Project MANA has made an indelible imprint on the Tahoe-Truckee communities during its 25 years as an agency.
The question now is: Will the nonprofit land on its feet this summer?
"I think everybody knows who we are because we've been around a long time," Kay said. "We feel actions speak louder than words, so we think everybody will recognize that if they really think this organization is important to the North Tahoe community, we'll be fine, we'll go forward and be successful as we've been in the past.
"Sometimes things happen and a lot of times it always works out for the best. So we're very positive."