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Tough Economy Hard on Local Service Groups
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

The Open Line, UP Senior Center and YFS share goal to help those in need

        William Penn once said, “The public must and will be served.” Officials from three area service providers are determined to work hard to insure that needed services are available during these tough economic times and guarantee that those services will be there in the future.
Two years ago, as the economy continued to spiral down and government funding for service agencies dried up, the three local agencies looked for ways to continue providing services to those in need.
        The Open Line, Upper Perkiomen Senior Center and Youth and Family Services, all based in Upper Montgomery County have spent the last 24 months looking at the services they provide searching for ways to join forces to maintain and improve those services while reducing costs and finding alternative funding sources.
        The project began as a community initiative referred to as the Upper Perkiomen Valley Community Services Coalition, spirited by a series of meetings between board members of local not-for-profit service organizations and community stakeholders concerned about the delivery of those services. It resulted in public forums where information and suggestions continued to pour in regarding the present and future of needed community services.
        The effort was supported by the Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County, YMCA and other groups.
        A consultant, funded by the United Way of Southeastern Pa., Montgomery County, and the Montgomery County Foundation was brought on board to facilitate the process.
        Now, after months of painstaking research, board members of The Open Line, Upper Perkiomen Senior Center and Youth and Family Services are ready to finalize the work that could lead to a “merger” or collaborative effort among the three groups.
        During a recent interview with Kathy Clancy, Board President for Youth and Family Services, Greg Dickey, Board President for The Open Line and Carol Kress, Board Member for the Upper Perkiomen Senior Center, all three expressed concern about the waning level of funding from government. According to the group of officials, the United Way has restructured their allocation format and the groups no longer qualify for contributions from that organization.
        While the collaborative effort was being researched, jobs were lost and programs were cut among the groups.
“We want to see how we can do more with less” commented Dickie, who added that “We want to develop a business plan to follow because a lot of people’s interests are at stake." Clancy added, “The need has grown and the money has dried up.” While searching for duplication of services, the organizations found few. Clancy emphasized that “We want to show a unified front” in the efforts to keep the necessary services available.
        Funding from major private charitable organizations is often directed towards groups that collaborate in their services provided. The groups work together now, but committing to join forces could improve their chances for securing funds from private foundations.
        All three representatives praised the local communities and how the people stepped up their contributions in these tough times. The needs of the community are ever changing and in tough economic times, the number of people who need help increases. 
        The Upper Perkiomen Senior Center is located in East Greenville, The Open Line is in Pennsburg, and Youth and Family Services is located in a building within the confines of Green Lane Park. All three buildings are owned by Montgomery County and one of the results of a successful collaborative effort would be to merge the three organizations into one building.
        While there can be plenty of good to come from mergers, they also bring concerns. Of the highly regarded services provide by each group, Kress said that some may fear losing “Our brands and our identity.”
        The organizations have developed a three-step plan: Performing “Due Diligence” in their fact-finding; researching and understanding all of the legal and financial implications of any decision they make and making a decision and implementing it.
        A “Request for Proposal” has gone out, seeking a professional with expertise on sharing services and these types of merger. The project, and the decision it brings, is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.
        All three local organizations will continue with their existing fundraising efforts and look for new ones.
Those looking to volunteer to help at events are asked to call: Lori Calvario of The Open Line at 215-670-4112, Joy Luft of the Upper Perkiomen Valley Senior Center at 215-679-6550, or Lois Wright or Vice Bowers of Youth and Family Services at 215-234-9372. 
        The final answer is not known yet, but the three community groups are determined to continue to provide the people of the region with needed services.





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