2003-07-24 Holland Sentinel Diversity group faces funding crunch

Diversity group faces funding crunch
Holland Sentinel

For the first time in its history, the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance is asking for financial help from the public it serves in the face of mounting budget constraints. “Things are tough all over and it filters down, especially to the non-profits,” said LEDA Executive Director Gail Harrison. “We’re having money troubles and we need to figure out a way to deal with it.”

Harrison said Wednesday that the organization, which sponsors events and services promoting diversity among lakeshore communities, may be forced to cut programs it can’t afford if the group can’t find funding. That means diversity programs such as the annual Calling All Colors event and the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism could be on the chopping block.

The organization also runs a migrant mentor program and the Lakeshore Fair Housing Service. Without the programs, the viability ad future of the organization could be in jeopardy, Harrison said. However, the 21-member board of LEDA maintains that the organization will go on, regardless of finances. “They’re a wonderful board and they insist we continue to offer all the programs, regardless,” she said. “We’ll just have to find a way to sustain ourselves.”

LEDA receives the majority of its funding from private groups and local communities, and when the economy takes a hit, it usually affects non-profit organizations more, Harrison said. Such organizations are restricted in the way they can receive funds, Harrison said, because state and federal funds aren’t as readily available. “We’re limited because we have to rely mainly on support from our community,” she said. “And right now things are tight. But I believe our community supports what we do and will support us.”

LEDA could be hit twice as by the economy because school budgets are also being slashed. The Calling All Colors event is aimed at middle school students and representatives from their schools. Bob Medellin, a counselor at Holland East Middle School and a Calling All Colors volunteer, said children throughout the area would be adversely affected if even that single event was done away with. “If this program was to go away the kids would miss out on a chance to experience things and voice their opinions in an open forum,” he said. “They’d also miss out on making friends with kids from other schools.”

According to LEDA’s 2002 tax form, the group lost about $1000 as expenses our weighted revenue. The group made $94,812 in 2002, but spent $95,845. LEDA officials are asking for help form the nearly 3,000 people and groups it has built into a data base over the years. The group has never mass-solicited for funds before, but Harrison hopes this most recent drive will help.

“I believe and trust that our community supports what we do and will do what it can to help,” Harrison said. “I know funding is tight everywhere, but this is a course that I know is widely supported.”