A struggling community center receives signs of hope just days after the public learned of a huge loss in funding. Just last week the Cheryl Allen Center learned it would lose all of its programming funds from the United Way.
More than 60 people turned out Wednesday night for a public meeting to review the finances of the Cheryl Allen Center.
Executive Director Floyd Upshaw wasn't sure what to expect from the meeting, but it was clear early on the community wants to pitch in and make sure the center stays put on Lima's south side.
"This is where we all grew up. My sister worked tirelessly, walking to this center here. She has been working at this center as long as the center has been around; she's 80 some years old," Mary Williamson, a supporter of the Cheryl Allen Center, said.
Mary Williamson is no stranger to the nearly 100 year old Cheryl Allen Center. She and her family have been volunteering for years there with everything from the emergency food pantry to the youth activities like Sister to Sister and the After School Program.
"We've got to have something to keep our youth off the streets. We have to have something to teach our youth something else besides what they see on the streets," Williamson said.
Williamson is one of more than 60 attending Wednesday night's public meeting at the Cheryl Allen Center to help come up with new funding. Less than a week ago the United Way notified the center it would not receive program funding come June 1. The center will however still receive designated funds. That means rather than receiving $2,200 the Cheryl Allen Center will only get $600 this year.
"We fund programs, we don't fund agencies. So that when agencies come to us they're asking for specific money for specific programs and that we have a policy that we will only fund up to 40% of the cost of that program, and that we expect results from all our programs and to be able to demonstrate those results," Philip Hayne, President and CEO of the United Way said.
So now the center is moving forward.
"We're going to make some foundational decisions, have our own independent strategic planning and go from here. We can't go in the past. The only thing we can do is move forward," Floyd Upshaw, Executive Director of the Cheryl Allen Center, said.
On Wednesday night the community pledged their support to move forward. Toni Clay volunteered to help with a marketing campaign. She says volunteers need to clean up the building and give it some curb appeal. After that it's onto the hard work.
"What you have to do is turn that negative into a positive. You just have to renew your mind and just get with the community and let them know this is the way it is now, it's not the way it used to be," Clay said.
Williamson was also one of the many pledging support for the center, but she knows the Cheryl Allen Center needs more than a handful of one time-donations to keep it running.
"What we pledge to do we will do and we hope everyone here in attendance today, while we're all so fired up now, we've got to keep that fire going," Williamson said.
Now the board of directors meets tomorrow night to start going over tonight's suggestions and to come up with a strategic plan for the future. The center still needs 10 board members.