Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation
To learn more about the Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation, visit the website or call
For the last 25 years, the Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation has been providing assistance to the under-served and economically disadvantaged members of the community.
If the group can't come up with several thousand dollars soon, that tradition of service will come to an end.
"We're about $4,000 to $5,000 short of funds," said the Rev. Lamar Johnson, the foundation's executive director.
"If we can't come up with the money, there's a possibility that we will have to close soon."
The group has fallen behind on its lease at 966 Athens Highway, Suite E, in Gainesville. A minimum of $4,000 would satisfy existing past-due obligations and help the center stay open through the end of the year, but the group is under the gun.
They've already received an eviction notice. The letter they received last week gave them 10 days to respond. If they're unable to come up with the capital, they'll have to vacate by early October.
According to Johnson, about half of the foundation's budget was lost when the Hall County government "took away $30,000 in funding over the last two years."
Previously, the foundation was the recipient of HUD grant funds that were administered through the city of Gainesville, but that program ended in December.
Without government support, sustaining operations has proven tricky. The group relies heavily on private donations and assistance from local businesses.
If the foundation shutters the doors of its facilities off West Ridge Road, they will no longer be able to provide much needed veterans services like housing assistance, peer support groups for those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome or military benefits assistance.
Veterans wouldn't be the only ones affected, so would the youth in the inner-city community surrounding the facility. The foundation shares a building and resources with the C.C. Cloud Youth Center.
Every weekday, the center's after-school program provides a positive atmosphere, supervision and homework assistance to more than a dozen children.
"These are latch-key kids. Their parents are at work," Johnson said. "They're mostly pre-kindergarten and elementary-aged students. If we close, where do they go?"
Although the center is no stranger to making the best of a bad situation — staff turned a portion of a dusty yard into a thriving vegetable garden to teach summer campers about healthy eating — things have gotten especially tough.
"We've always had a push for funds, but the robbery in December was a major setback," said Michelle Lowe Mintz, the foundation's bookkeeper. "We're in the process of looking for new avenues for funding, but our immediate need has reached a critical level."
The robbery happened Dec. 15. Not only did the thieves steal more than $6,000 worth of Christmas gifts meant for needy children, they also vandalized the center. Among other things, the burglars ruined computer monitors, printers and other office equipment.
The community came together to help replace the stolen gifts, but over the years, financial support from the greater Hall County hasn't exactly been overwhelming, Johnson said.
"As a veteran, I don't have to be here. I do this as a service," Johnson said. "We're on a mission to save these kids, but we need some help."