The holidays were happy for Family Resource Center leaders, who said Wednesday that an outpouring of nearly $50,000 in year-end donations means their nonprofit can keep responding to domestic violence and sexual assault crises into the New Year.
“We want to get a big thank you out to the community,” Development Director Vernon Araujo said. “Without all of the support, we would have been in a real state of peril.”
Araujo and the Center’s Executive Director, Vivian St. Juste, started sounding the fundraising alarm last fall, saying they would have to curtail their free counseling, outreach, and 24-hour emergency services if they did not quickly get a cash infusion. Because of the community donations – and a delayed grant allotment that’s since been promised in full – the fiscal crisis has abated, Araujo and St. Juste said.
How the Shortfall Happened
On Wednesday at the Center’s downtown facility on Commandant Gade, St. Juste explained in greater detail the financial pressures that led to the Center’s year-end cash crunch.
The Center expected to receive a recurring $130,000 federal grant last October, which was the start of its fiscal year 2012. The allotment represents about one-fifth of the annual budget for the organization, which serves over 1,000 men, women and children every year, St. Juste said.
St. Juste said the local granting agency, the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, delivered a disconcerting message to the Center’s leaders: It told them to prepare for their allotment to arrive late, to expect a smaller amount than usual, and to know that they would not be able to use the funds retroactively for operational costs already incurred. That news left Center leaders unsure about how they were going pay the bills for October, November, and December, St. Juste added, and so they started the aggressive fundraising campaign. The $50,000 they raised – much of which came from small, individual donations – helped them keep providing free, no-wait services through the end 2011, she and Araujo said.
The Center recently received notice that the stress-causing federal grant, after months of uncertainty, will be coming through, St. Juste said Wednesday. Not only is it coming, but it will contain close to $9,000 more than usual, she said, and the Center will be able to use it to pay for expenses it incurred in the past.
Planning for a Growing Need
Despite these recent victories, the Center still faces fiscal challenges, St. Juste said. For example, its 2012 allotment from the local government was reduced by 25 percent, and its client-base has been growing, as there is no service provider like theirs currently operating on St. John, St. Juste said.
At the same time, the Center has trimmed its staff, letting a youth counselor and case worker go over the last year, St. Juste said. Encompassing the Commandant Gade facilities, an outreach and education site near Charlotte Amalie High School, and a 20-bed emergency shelter, the Center employs six full-time staff members and close to a dozen part-time workers. These employees take on tasks such as providing counseling to women who walk in, attending Family Court and answering calls to the Center’s 24-hour crisis hot line (340-776-7867).
Community Development Block Grant funds are paying for ongoing improvements to the organization’s Bunker Hill site, St. Juste said. Using approximately $400,000 in CDBG funds – which St. Juste said can only be put toward construction projects, and not operational costs – crews have been replacing leaking roofs and are completely rebuilding a decayed structure. St. Juste said the building should be complete in two months, and that it will house several offices, a small conference room and shower for clients.
St. Juste’s explanation about the need for a shower is a reminder why an organization like the Center is needed on St. Thomas in the first place.
“It’s so they can shower when they come to us after they’re beaten; they’re bleeding and they need the help,” St. Juste said.