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Washington County Cuts SOAR! Funding
Updated May 5, 2013 1:10 AM
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(SALEM) - Marcia Walker of the Leader-Democrat reports that SOAR!, an adult literacy program, recently learned that its request to the Washington County Council for $7,500 next year has been denied. SOAR! had received $7,500 from the county this year.

Erica Schmidt, director of the program, says it's a huge hit because the county and city are their largest funders.

SOAR! has also requested $2,500 from Salem and has not heard whether the city will support the request. SOAR! operates on an annual budget of about $40,000, much of that generated by their own fundraising efforts.

Salem Mayor David Bower says the city intends to continue to support SOAR!

The county had included the request in the budget for Riverboat Wage Sharing, which is channeled through the state and comes from money generated by the casino in Orange County. Several other agencies had their requests denied as well including the Washington County Historical Society, $3,000; YMCA, $500; Salem-Washington County Senior Center, $2,500 and Outside the Walls, $1,000.

Just when the county council made their decision is unclear. Michelle Fleenor, deputy auditor, says the minutes of council meetings only reflect when a motion is made; it doesn't take a motion to remove items from the proposed budget.

Schmidt received a letter in November stating that the county council was eliminating funding due to budget constraints.

Karen York, president of SOAR!'s board of directors, says the agency counts on the county's donation to help with operating costs.

York says now the group will have to figure out a way to cover the costs of operations, even possibly closing the doors - a looming threat.

SOAR! runs with volunteers, but there are still operating costs - books, office supplies and other items.

The cut in funding has put additional pressure on the board, who are now contacting donors for help and seeking new donors.

The loss of funding has also resulted in the agency shelving a new project that was about to get underway. SOAR! had received a matching grant from the Washington County Community Foundation to help with costs of launching Book Buggy, sort of a traveling book store offering used books that would visit various events in the county, such as the farmers' markets.

Since March 5 of this year, SOAR! has helped 54 students; five have passed the GED and six have gained new employment. Volunteers have contributed more than 1,300 hours just tutoring.

In spite of the financial uncertainties, staff and volunteers are carrying on as usual.

For information about SOAR! or to make a donation call 896-1515 or visit info@washingtoncountysoar.org.



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