Project MANA celebrates 15 years
Sun News Service
This first installment of a two-part series explores the origins and growth of Project MANA, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this weekend. The second installment will follow the project’s activities through present day, with executive director George LeBard at the helm.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. ” In the spring of 1991, Sierra Nevada College senior Anne Louise Ryan turned in her type-written senior project to her instructor, SNC president Ben Solomon, and proudly reported the following about the food distribution service she had founded earlier that year and was running out of her garage:
“Since its inception … PROJECT M.A.N.A. has responded to 33 hunger calls ” an average of four calls per week. PROJECT M.A.N.A. has raised more than $2,700 through the sale of T-shirts and sweatshirts, proceeds from the April 4 fundraiser and personal contributions. My goal for the second fundraiser … is $2,500,” she wrote.
Fifteen years later, Project MANA (Making Adequate Nutrition Accessible) employs three staffers and three Americorps volunteers, has an operating budget of $212,000, offices in both Incline Village and Truckee, distributes more than 100,000 pounds of food to 4,000 needy households in the Tahoe Basin annually and runs nine educational and nutritional programs aimed at children, seniors and low-income families.
Though MANA was still operating out of Ryan’s home four years after its incorporation as a nonprofit Nevada organization ” which took a month after Ryan’s graduation in July 1991 ” it employed three federal VISTA volunteers and was delivering food to 1,195 households.
“It was very basic in the beginning. Someone would call, we’d pack-up a bag of food and call up one of the volunteers to deliver it,” said Josie Garcia, who was MANA’s first full-time employee.
MANA had also attracted a board of directors from around the North Shore, including California business owner Tony Remenih. Remenih, who has served on the board of directors since 1995, found that MANA addressed needs that very few people were aware of.
“I really had an awakening to the hidden need within our community,” Remenih said. “It was an experience I thought I might only find in a big city … to my amazement, there are many people here who only barely make ends meet.”
The other aspect of MANA’s mission that attracted Remenih was the way MANA sought to alleviate not just the incidence of hunger, but also its root causes through education.
Though finding food sources turned out to be relatively easy, Project MANA volunteers found that their chief bottleneck was food storage. Even after moving into their new facilities in Kings Beach in 1996, their office was still filled with food piled from floor to ceiling, making it difficult to get office work done and almost impossible to store large amounts of perishable foods. Still, Remenih and his colleagues had little idea of what was in MANA’s future.
“We thought we were pretty hot stuff back then. If we had this conversation 12 years ago, I might be saying with the same amount of enthusiasm how efficient we were,” Remenih said. “Truth be told, we couldn’t hold a candle to what we do today.”
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