Henderson foundation picks up slack in senior programs

As Henderson’s ability to subsidize certain senior programs shrinks, a local foundation is setting up a pair of funds in the hope the community will step in to help financially.

The nonprofit Henderson Community Foundation is setting up tax-deductible funds this summer to help support senior transportation from residences to the Heritage Park Senior Center and to help support senior nutrition programs.

“When people know what specific purpose their money will go to, it’s easier to fundraise,” foundation President Lisa Sich said, adding the organization is appointing fund advisers to oversee spending of each new fund.

The funds come as City Hall is turning over operations of senior transportation to ITN Las Vegas Valley, a nonprofit group specializing in senior transportation. The city has committed to pay $50,000 annually toward the senior transportation program. The program cost the city $236,000 per year to operate. ITN hopes to tap the new foundation funds to help make up some of the deficit.

Sich said the funds would be to make sure the 111 riders paying $1 round trip to Heritage Park from home will be able to continue at that price. The riders have a physical ailment, such as poor vision, that prevents them from driving or getting to a bus stop.

“That social time is so important,” Sich said. “I can’t imagine being homebound and not having access to people and an outlet to be social, let alone getting a great meal.”

The city has taken steps to reduce taxpayer costs for senior lunches at Heritage Park by eliminating Saturday meals, raising the suggested donation price from $1.50 to $2.50 and cutting free ice tea service with lunch. Ice tea costs the city $30,000 annually.

The total cost for the meals program at Heritage Park and downtown senior centers is $835,800, with the city paying $396,000 last year after grants. The city averaged 9,030 meals per month from October 2012 to September, and 8,660 per month since October.

For Meals on Wheels, the city pays $551,600 of the program’s $883,000 annual cost, delivering 163,000 meals since October 2012.

Dan Hyde, chairman of the Henderson Senior Citizen Advisory Commission, said fundraising to support the senior programs will find a lot of support.

“If you can earmark money to where it’s needed most, and it’s going to be used specifically for that, I think you’re going to find a lot more support than you think you’re going to get,” Hyde said at the commission’s May 21 meeting.

Fran Smith, a commissioner and co-founder of ITN, said she has reached out to the Caesars Foundation about the nonprofit arm of the gaming giant giving a grant toward senior nutrition through the Henderson Foundation.

City spokeswoman Kim Becker said the city has been approached by people who want to donate to the programs, but Henderson does not have a way of accepting donations, so it turned to the foundation.

Henderson City Councilwoman Debra March, whose involvement with the foundation predates her 2009 council appointment, oversees the nonprofit’s grant allocation process.

March has pledged approximately $1,400 to the foundation for senior nutrition, and Councilman John Marz has pledged a similar amount from his council discretionary fund.

The foundation was formed in 2002 by the Henderson Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Leadership Henderson class. The group was looking for a way raise money for “charitable good works in the community” through a single nonprofit group. The foundation is not part of the city government. However, many Henderson employees are on the board.

The foundation has grown from $47,219 in grants and donations in 2004 to $212,000 in 2012, according to the organization’s tax returns. Although no one on the board receives a check, the foundation pays $38,000 annually for administrative services such as audits, monthly financial updates and tax returns.

Today, the foundation oversees 22 funds and helps other organizations raise money when they do not have the ability to set up a fundraising nonprofit organization on their own. Some funds that started at the foundation have grown into separate nonprofit groups, such as the Friends of the Henderson Libraries.

March said grants are only given to organizations and projects “that touch Henderson” in some way. For more information go to www.HendersonCF.org.

Contact Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3882. Find him on Twitter: @KnightlyGrind.


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