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SAAA selects professional fundraiser


By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL - A professional fundraiser may help the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging tackle its mounting debt.

The SAAA board on Friday approved a motion to hire John Borders of BDI Consulting to perform fundraising activities for the agency. The board made the hiring contingent upon the agency having funds available for the expense and after staff members review Borders' references. The motion also directed staff to report back to the board by next Friday with the results.

The agency will negotiate with Borders for the cost of his services, according to John Hudson, SAAA board chairman.

"There's a 99 percent chance we're going to be able to afford that," Hudson said. "Him being local and having lots of experience locally with fundraising. A lot of organizations particularly in the Winchester area will be familiar with him."

The unanimous vote came after the board met for more than an hour in closed session to discuss the matter and to talk with candidates for the task. The board at a previous meeting agreed the agency needed to hire a fundraiser who could attract potential donors able to give large amounts of money.

The agency remains hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt 18 months after the board discovered nearly $300,000 in unsent checks made out to vendors and other bill collectors. Shortly thereafter the board terminated three top administrators, including Executive Director Helen Cockrell.

SAAA Director of Fiscal Operations Jonathan Price reported that the agency received another request for funds from the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services. The agency has paid federal and state payroll taxes owed for the third quarter. The agency's 401(k) also is up to date, according to Price.

"Cashflow-wise there is improvement, so we're looking positive right now," Price said.

The board also seeks a firm to perform the agency's next audit that it must submit no later than the end of April. Price told the board that a local CPA suggested for the role indicated he could not perform the audit but did recommend other people who might conduct the work. The board at an earlier meeting expressed hope that it could find a CPA to perform the audit for less than the usual cost.

In other agency business, Hudson announced that member Cheryl Swartz gave her resignation, which he accepted "with regret." Swartz served on the board for several years representing Frederick County. Swartz who works for Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester, indicated she would be absent from the board for several months when the General Assembly session begins. The Frederick County Board of Supervisors is aware of Swartz' resignation and is in the process of picking a replacement.

Interim Director/Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Palmer reported that Meals On Wheels holiday cookbook sales fundraiser has begun. The local Elks Lodge also is preparing a meal for seniors and other homebound residents in the community, Palmer reported.

The agency recently began serving meals to 25-30 people previously on the waiting list for the service, she said.

Agency workers plan to volunteer to cook, prepare and deliver meals on Christmas Eve for homebound clients in the jurisdictions served by the SAAA, according to Palmer. Several board members expressed an interest in volunteering to help on Christmas Eve.

Also at the meeting, Price advised that the agency has redesigned its website after it had been out of operation for several weeks. Staff performed the design the work.

Palmer lauded staff for taking on additional duties in the past year once performed by more than eight employees who are no longer with the agency.

Hudson noted that the agency is so murch further ahead than it was 15 months ago.

"I think next year is going to be a very good year for this agency," Hudson said. "I think staff has everything they need to do together. The board understands what directions we're taking and I think we are definitely on the road to a brighter agency."

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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