Eastern Cowley County Resource Center

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ADVOCATE of Eastern Cowley County, KS.Small town news from the heart of Kansas. Blog about a 501-C Non-Profit Community Resource Center with a focus on literacy. ECCRC - built Lighthouse Library, a community library with an ocean theme. Project accomplished by the Grace of God.Posting the good news of rural Kansas.

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Confessions of a Nonprofit Director

Posted on September 10, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

By Lynn Pettigrew Norris

Part One -

 

The next time you see a notice (requesting volunteers or funding) hanging on the window of a nonprofit, especially if the “Closed” sign is hanging on their door, please consider the things that I am about to write. First, I must confess that I am not feeling very joyful today. Usually on days like today, it is just better for me to be somewhere along a country creek instead of in public. It is better that I remain off from any social media and far away from meetings or any community program contact. Even so, may I offer these thoughts today about what it is really like to run a non-funded nonprofit behind the scenes.

 

The fact that there is a notice that says VOLUNTEERS NEEDED should be the same to the reader as reading: “Please help us, we are about to die here from our own volunteer time. We hold down full-time jobs when we are not here. The extra workload of all the many various aspects of the nonprofit is heavy. Besides all the various duties that have to be carried out, no one ever tells the director “thank you” for any time that is personally spent volunteering. No matter how hard of a workday it was, the director must be sure to thank everyone else. Sometimes when the crowd is gone, there is nothing left to do but cry.

 

A nonprofit is really no different from any other business that you may do business with. Either things are sold or services are sold in a for-profit business. The same is true of a nonprofit. The difference is that the nonprofit has a mission statement which describes the services that are offered to the public free of charge. If anything is sold in a nonprofit, it is in order to put those funds back into the nonprofit to help with the operating costs.

 

Things that must be done on a continual basis rather there are volunteers or not is that the place has to be cleaned. In our case, there are three buildings to keep clean and running. The main building is a place where literacy programs are carried out. There is a computer lab and a community library. Children come in all the time for organized reading clubs as well as individually to use the library. Children learn and play in the facility. This produces educational areas that must be cleaned and kept very clean. The children of course also use the bathroom facilities as well, so those must be kept clean. There are snacks to purchase and sometimes lunches. Children need something to drink and in some cases they are hungry and need juice and breakfast items. The program needs educational supplies which include construction paper, glue, ink for the printers, markers, paint, and many other supplies. There are plastic storage containers to purchase and keep clean. The list goes on and on.

 

The entire facility must be swept with a sweeper each week. Everything must be dusted. The facility has an upstairs which has a computer lab. That area is used by the public. It must be cleaned. The cost of the printer ink cartridges is very expensive. This is a continual expense. There are many other office expenses to keep the business going. Stamps much be purchased on a monthly basis to pay the many bills that come in. The bills include the following: electric bill, gas bill, water bill, sewer bill, trash bill, building insurance bill, vehicle insurance (for the van that was purchased for the food bank, thrift store, and library), cleaning products, food items for children, craft items, program expenses, curriculum, upkeep which includes a major purchase almost every much such as a refrigerator, heater, water heater, etc. The bills average $1,500 every month.

 

A small thrift store was built after the founders secured a personal loan of $8,000 for building materials. Donations were made by the founders to pay hired help to get the store and the small cabin built. Another loan of $4,000 was secured to help purchased needed building material. The founders have been paying off these loans for several years. The store must be heated and cooled. Many, many advertisements were run in local newspapers that ran up a lot of bills. Signs were made. These bills average $80 a month. When no ads are run, no one comes in to shop. Last week $10 was made from the store. This was the main sustaining project but obviously, it is not helping with anything.

 

The thrift store adds a new element of work. Volunteers are needed to sort the donated items. They must be hung up and priced (if clothing). The workload is great for the store. There is a lot of lifting, sorting, and putting up displays. Seasonal items must be changed out for each season or holiday. An online presence must be maintained on a website in order to post updates, sales, and products.

 

There is a rental cabin which comes with a lot of work involved. The rental cost per night is $45.00. It takes on average three-and-a-half hours for one person to pull all the soiled bedding and towels out of the cabin along with the trash and to clean it. The cabin has a loft where two beds must be changed. Each time someone stays, all bedding including the mattress covers and bedspreads are pulled and laundered. There is a kitchen and bathroom with a tub to clean. The kitchen has a cook stove with an oven, microwave, dishes, and shelves to clean. Fresh towels and soap items have to be put out.

 

One person could never run this nonprofit. It was never set up like that. For example, if someone books the cabin, that ties one person up for most of half a day. That person will be very hot and tired and their clothing will be very dirty by the time the cabin is clean. There is no way that person could then continue to volunteer in the thrift store or library on any day when the cabin needs to be cleaned. It is very difficult to climb the stairs to the loft in the cabin and carry bedding up there. After much experience, the goal is to make sure to get everything needed in one trip up there.

 

I have a neck injury, so washing down the bath tub and shower area produces a lot of pain. Add in running the sweeper, mopping and everything else included, and this has all become way too much work without volunteers. Someone commented that they knew that I received disability for my neck which is not true at all. I have worked my whole life which includes the past several decades after a car wreck that injured my neck and have never applied nor received any disability payments. This is very hurtful that people start such lies.

 

These types of rumors have caused things to be twice the work. It is very hard to try to ask for donations and funding when others are working hard to tell others that we are fully funded. One day the message came back to me that we did not need anything – that we received a lot of grant funding which couldn’t be farther from the truth. In all the years, very little has been secured in grants. For example, so far this year we have received no grant money. Last year we received $3,000 out of the $23,000 that it cost to keep the doors open.

 

Recently, we sold the bull from our cattle herd. On top of that, we donated $1,000 to pay for the utilities and bills that were due or late. We have never made public the personal sacrifice that this project has cost our family, but we have reached the point in our lives where we cannot continue. It has been a big sacrifice that we were willing to make. For the past several years, we have not had a kitchen in our own home because we have not had the time or funds to put one back in after tearing an old one out. When no one donates funding for the nonprofit and volunteers who are the life-blood of the organization don’t step up for some of the workload, then this brings us to the point of some very important questions that need to be answered. We are at that point.

 

To be continued…

 


It's All About The Kids

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)

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It’s All About The Kids

If ever you have wondered why people volunteer – it’s all about the kids! Today proved that fact. Children poured in by the scores – or so it seemed – for a fun day at Lighthouse Library in Dexter, Kansas. The new library is almost completed – finally. It took over five years for volunteers to work week in and week out to get the building done. But kids don’t really care about those details – all they care about is living in the moment and having fun. What a great way to enjoy life – living in the moment.


The joys of today overshadowed any lack of funds, any sorrows over past losses, any physical ailments such as achy bones or feet. Seeing all the children and youth on hand just made a person feel happy. These kids are the future of this tiny Kansas town. They are the hope that things will change for the better while remaining the same all at the same time. There is nothing like home-town America. We all have our favorite place on the earth to live, to set down roots, and to help one another – neighbor helping neighbor. Today showed lots of neighbors who came out to make this day possible for a whole lot of children who showed up expecting to have a good time.


The day started like spring – slowly, gently as children starting coming in the door. Then as the booths were set up and the coffee was put on, the kids kept coming in – in groups of two, three, four, and even five.100 guests showed up in some form - counting those who stopped by just to say hello. 81 guests registered for the day. Many more individuals stopped by the site the night before, knowing that we had a time-crunch to get everything ready.


Guests loved the Jumpy Monkey booth that Mosaic brought over. Here is their website: http://www.mosaicinfo.org/winfield/jumpymonkey.htm We are so excited that they will be partnering with ECCRC to bring their products to the Treasure Chest Store on the Lighthouse Library site. We hope to open the store early this summer. We continue to find other valuable partners to bring great products to the store.


Now – back to the kids! The seemed to enjoy their reading circles in the library. Volunteers read pirate books to them today. It was so cute. We have some photos we can post soon on the Lighthouse Library site. They were all adorned in their pirate gear – eye patches, hats, and sashes. It was so fun pretending to be a real pirate today. These little pirates so obviously were their for the duration of the day’s events. New books were given out to the children along with a participation receipt for literacy.


Next the Dexter Fire Department brought their new truck out. The children took a tour round and round the big rig. Their imagination and curiosity peaked when  Brian Kuntz showed up just in time to explain how the big truck works at a fire to the kids. The children were allowed to climb on board and sit in the seats for a photo op. These little pirates all waved for a group photo.



About that time, the lights and siren on the Ark City Police cruiser began to go off with the doors of the vehicle open for children to explore. The children dismounted the fire truck and gathered around the police car. The officers on hand explained how they are kept safe by the police force. The fire truck lights were flashing and sirens were going off. A couple of children decided to go back to the big fire truck. It was so fun and funny to see the kids in action and see all the wonder in their eyes. It was equally rewarding to see our public servants take their time to educate these children about the importance of safety.


The day advanced to the Bike Rodeo. All children entered the courts in the Dexter downtown area with their bikes, their scooters, and their trikes. Some had helmets on and some did not. Orange cones were in place to guide the children around the course. The police officer offered bike safety tips and helped to fit the children who needed helmets with new ones. About 20 helmets were given out to the kids. Meanwhile, some of the adults got smoke detectors from the Cowley Health Department who had also been doing baby car seat checks.


The Dress Like a Pirate Day is planned as an annual event for the third Friday in March each year. It is hoped that in the years ahead more families will bring their vehicles out and have their baby car seats checked. The purpose of the check is to check for recalled chairs and to make sure the chairs are installed correctly. For example, not everyone knows that when a seat is put into the car, an adults full body weight needs to go on the chair to assure that it is tightly down in place and the seat belt is put into place to secure it. Without this added weight, the seat is too lose and this is very dangerous in a crash situation. Parents who need newer or better car seats are provided those by the Health Department.


The day ended with lunch. Creekstone’s hamburgers were giant ones and enjoyed by many. ECCRC provided the hot dogs, baked beans,  and other food along with cookies and chips that was donated by many area residents. The food for a group this large is not cheap, so the donated items were appreciated. Sixty hamburgers and as many hot dogs were consumed along with two gallons of beans and about a million cookies.


The day would not have been possible without the help of volunteers. Thanks to the Otto 4-H Club and the many volunteers they brought. Thanks to the Ark City Police Department for sending out some officers to run the Bike Rodeo. Thanks to the Ark City Health Department and Cyndii Calloway and others for their spurring us on to get this event started and for their important message about child car seat safety! They did mention that anyone still wanting this service may stop by the Health Department and get a car seat if yours is not working properly and to get the seat you have checked for safety.


Thanks to the City of Dexter for their donation to help purchase bikes. Thanks to the SKT Phone Company for their donation toward bike purchases. Thanks to anonymous contributors who provided the funds to purchase the food items and trinkets for the kids. Pirate hats, eye patches, tattoos, stickers, books, Hawaiian leis, and much more were bought for this day. Thanks to Cowley College and James Fry for the many college students who came out to volunteer to help get the building ready. Thanks to the young men who stopped by to help unload the huge aquarium the night before the event. Thanks to Randy Norris who had a hand in this all – behind the scenes and never recognized. His never-ending labor has gone on for over five years now, always trying to get this project completed and never complaining about any personal family funds that were donated toward this goal.


Thanks to our living children who have endured personal sacrifice when their parents were not available for events in their lives and in their children’s lives due to our commitments toward ECCRC and Lighthouse Library projects. And thanks to them for their unending hours of volunteer work.


Thanks to Jennifer Nicole Norris, whose life continues to bless those who knew her. At today’s event, some of her former classmates from Dexter High School shared some truly inspiring and special stories. We had not intended to mention Jennifer today, only wanting all the children and families to have a good day. But when classmates talked to us, they did not realize that they had touched on the heart-strings that tie us to our past and keep us tied to the future for us all. The children who attended today’s event really are our future. It really is all about the children. We thank their families for allowing them to come out and participate and to help kick off the opening of Lighthouse Library.


There was just not time and not enough energy today to personally thank each person who took the time out of their busy lives to stop by. We look forward to the days, months, and years ahead and covet your prayers as this project advances to serve these wonderful families and children.


Many asked us when we plan to open the doors and get started. With Randy and I working full-time, we must depend on volunteers to open the doors for these children. The library will be open as many hours each week as volunteers want to be there to run it. The Treasure Chest Store will be open as many hours as volunteers want to be there. We hope that the community takes ownership in the library and the store. They are for the good of the town – for everyone to enjoy. 100 % of the proceeds from the store go back into ECCRC projects such as Lighthouse Library.


The cabin on the site is the other sustaining project for the library. The Grouse Valley Lodge remains available to the public to rent for a suggested donation of $45 per night. Last year it brought in $750. The year before it brought in $1,500. There is the cost of heating and cooling the cabin. We hope that it is rented out more in the years ahead.


The next step at the project is to put the carpet in at the library. We are ready. The floor has been sealed. Once the carpet is in, the books can be brought in. We have written a grant to secure storage for the contents of the store – the items that have been donated for the store and the books – all 21,000 of them! We must clear the store in order to finish the walls, paint them, and put the carpeting  & lights in. The store is wired and the sheetrock is all up. It won’t take long to finish it all out. But first all the contents must be emptied and stored. We have asked for the funds to build the upper tier in the library which consists of a walkway with book shelves attached to the upper walls. This will double the space to display books. A spiral staircase is needed to access the walkway. So we are hopeful that the funding will come in to accomplish all of this.


Again – today was a good day. Personally, I felt a good deal of relief to see the doors open and the public response. I also felt a heartache for a daughter who left this earth too soon – just when her life was getting started. I never want Lighthouse Library to be overshadowed by my own personal grief. I want the children to use the library to its fullest extent. This will happen if volunteers continue to step up and if funding is secured. ECCRC and Lighthouse Library are a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, but we receive no government funding. The library is not on the tax rolls. No mill levy goes to help support it. No funds are given by the County Commission. Only donations built it and will keep it open. The last utility bills included a nearly $200 gas bill and a $100 electric bill. The building insurance is $1,200 a year - $100 a month. There are other bills, the water, the phone, etc. Once the doors are open daily, the utility bills will go up. These are bills that have been paid since 2003 when ECCRC was founded. We never expected any large donations, but we certainly hope for a lot of partners who can contribute a monthly amount of even $5.00. This would make a huge difference. It is always concerning and humbling to deal with the funding aspect, but without donations, the doors will not remain open. If you can, please do send what you can whenever you can to: ECCRC, PO Box 40, Dexter, Kansas 67038. The phone at the library is (620) 876-7323. The e-mail is: eccresourcecenter@yahoo.com


Thanks again to those who came out today. We realize the event was on a Friday when many were working. It is also difficult to get the word out. Thanks to the City of Dexter for posting the event on the city clock. Well, it’s been a good, long day – so with that thought, I will say goodnight! It is already past 1:00 a.m.  – so today is a new day. As Jennifer ended her time on this earth in one of her concluding journal pages she left behind: “This is the day the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24

 

 


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