Mateel Community Center Board Seeks Footing With Debt Over $600,000
The Mateel Community Center Board of Directors seeks its footing in light of the center’s overwhelming debt which totals just over $600,000. The board is clearly struggling to get a full understanding of the cost of monthly operations, but the nine board members appear enthusiastic and committed to the job they face. However, they also need to define the role and direction of the center under their leadership as they reach out to the community in a major fundraising campaign.
The Financial Picture
In the Treasurer’s Report, Eryn Snodgrass described the Mateel’s financial picture as “sobering.” The organization owes $603,000. Reggae on the River lost $136,000 plus the Mateel overspent its budget in 2014 and has been trying to catch up since then, according to Justin Crellin. In addition, it also owes $140,000 to community members for loans made to the Mateel in 2014. [This paragraph was corrected to more accurately reflect the situation.]
With regard to ongoing operations, Snodgrass, who is a local business owner, said, “There are a staggering amount of bills to operate. We are kind of running on fumes to be honest. I am of the opinion, we need $300,000 to $400,000 to accomplish [our] goals in the new year. And that would allow us…we would be able to operate and pay some of our debt to stay out of arrears with no collections or lawsuits.”
Snodgrass has been meeting weekly with Bookkeeper Amie McClellan to fully understand the Mateel’s costs. Snodgrass says, currently, the Mateel needs $22,600 a month for staff and operations in order to not cut further. This comes to $272,000 a year.
This staffing level would allow the Mateel Community Center to hold the Summer Arts and Music Festival in 2018. However, this figure does not pay for any of the over half million dollars of debt.
Currently, there is about $15,000 in the Mateel’s bank account. Snodgrass and McClellan had spent the day of the board meeting identifying creditors and triaging payments. They had sent out $4,000 in checks this day, but, says Snodgrass, the Mateel received about that much from
the Hoedown and the Damian Marley show. memberships and sponsorships. (Error correction.)
The Winter Arts Fair will happen in
December but the Board is cutting the cost of having live music.
Fundraising and Board activism
The Board is developing a fundraising plan after now getting a clear picture of the debt and the true cost of operations.
Currently, the Board is preparing a letter for a major fundraising effort on GoFundMe. And members will be meeting with Patrick Cleary of the Humboldt Area Foundation who has reached out to the Mateel in their time of crisis.
Board Member Pleasure Strange wants the public to know that 500 lifetime memberships will solve the Mateel’s problems.
However, the Board Members have not yet come to an agreement on the vision and plans for the Mateel Community Center. Board Member Dusty Hughston says the Board will use the financial data to “develop a strategic plan for 2018 instead of 1999.” And Board Member Pleasure Strange says “we want the best health for the Mateel and a better resource for our community.” The Board is meeting weekly while they develop these plans, but the public and membership are only welcome to the regularly scheduled third Tuesday of the month meeting.
Currently, Board Member activism is high. Several board members had been working all day in the hall with staff and volunteers to clear and clean. Hall Manager, Dan Whyte said, with other volunteer help, the storage shed had been emptied, and the Reggae on the River storage containers were sorted and repacked. He acknowledged he failed to inventory things as they repacked them, however. Whyte reported 2,400 pounds of trash had left the hall this day. The next workday will be All Saints Day November 1.
Community Programs of the Mateel
The Mateel Meal remains a topic of conversation. Board member, Pleasure Strange, says the board is committed to the meal but hasn’t the money to operate it. However, she also says again this month that the Mateel Community Center’s certified kitchen is better used by renting it to a food truck operator.
These are the kinds of priorities Board Members must consider as they devise their strategic plan and vision for the area’s community center.
An annual CalFresh Grant supporting the operational costs of the Mateel Meal staffing has also provided funds to upgrade the kitchen equipment over the last five years. The CalFresh grant has purchased a freezer, two under-counter refrigerators, a center prep table, and an industrial food processor for example. Amy Terrones of the Family Resource Center spoke up to say that the CalFresh grant is likely still available to pay for the operational expenses of the Mateel Meal. It remains unclear why the Board is not renewing their application to the CalFresh grant.
The Veterans’ Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners
Board Member Dusty Hughston said “we are united as a board in our commitment” to the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
The Garberville Veterans Association has hosted this volunteer effort since 1983 and there was no report from the Board about communication with the Veterans groups on the matter.
According to Veteran Brian Ormond, in a phone conversation later, he and Tom Pie generally collect donations from businesses in a door-to-door fashion to sponsor the holiday meals. The Vets pay a chef to cook and be responsible for the food safety aspects, while all the preparation labor of chopping, mixing and stirring is volunteered by the community. Ormond said, “The community has paid for the meal, the volunteers have prepared the meal, and the Garberville Veterans Association has hosted and cleaned up after the meal” for three decades. The Veterans’ Hall had to be closed in 2017 due to mold, so the Veterans held their Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations at the Mateel. They hope to do that again this year because the Presbyterian Church burned down and is no longer an alternative option.
Ormond also talked about who comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Veterans. He said, “These holiday celebrations are community event, not homeless events. But some of our community are homeless.” According to Ormond, there are people whose husband or wife has gone to see family while one needs to stay home with pets or to work. The person staying home wants company and freedom from cooking. There are also people who don’t have companions and didn’t travel to see other family who attend. Some attendees are elderly without the energy to make a holiday meal. And lately, he says, there have been a sizable number of “trimigrants” who come for the festivities.
Generally, about 175 people eat Thanksgiving Dinner with the Veterans, but last year there was a widespread power outage on Thanksgiving Day. Around 350 people came to dinner in 2016.
Ormond emphasized the feeling of community and involvement. For example, the local bikers’ Toy Run collects Christmas gifts for kids and many of those are distributed at the Christmas dinner.
For the past four years, the Family Resource Center, WISH, the Veterans and the Mateel have co-sponsored a grant application that pays for food baskets to be prepared at home by needy families and to help cover some costs of the Veterans’ holiday meals. Amie McClellan is once again seeking this grant.
The Board was also approached by business owner, Peg Anderson. Anderson requests the Mateel be an alternative location for the Emergency Winter Shelter in Southern Humboldt. Only one church so far has agreed to welcome the shelter on nights it is too cold or too cold and wet to be safe from hypothermia. The Board is considering the request.
Staffing Changes and Reggae
Justin Crellin has scaled back his time in the office to one day a week. At this point, his work is directed at organizing and transferring his job duties to those board members and staff who will take up his functions.
Crellin said there have been “three serious offers” regarding Reggae on the River. One proposal has been withdrawn, a second offer he described as “unlikely” to suit the Mateel’s needs, and the third proposal has not yet been fully submitted though it has been expected and postponed several times according to Crellin.
Crellin said that he would be sending out an email this week introducing the parties with proposals in the works to the board members and withdrawing himself from the process.
Crellin’s other major remaining commitment to the Mateel is being the point person at an upcoming trial. The litigation results from an injury to a volunteer at Summer Arts and Music Festival
three four years ago when a redwood tree near the main stage dropped limbs on the medical tent. That trial is currently scheduled for March of 2018.
Crellin told the board he will continue to be available to answer questions after he has transitioned out of the job.
The Board has identified Office Manager, Charity Green, as a sort of chief-of-staff while the community center operates without a General Manager.