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Bend's Community Center staying open for now

By Joe Burns
Published On: Oct 15 2012 08:16:47 PM CDT

An update on the Bend Community Center a month after board members announced some major changes to its programs.

BEND, Ore. -

Leaders of Bend's Community Center say support from the community has helped tremendously since it first announced that it could be closing  due to financial problems. Now, it plans to stick around, and key programs have been spared.

The bad news: there are some impacts. The center is closing its thrift store, warehouse and Bike Shed program.

Bend's Community Center Executive Director Linda Heatley told NewsChannel 21 on Monday she's made it her mission to keep the center open.

"The first week (after the announcement), I didn't know," Heatley said. "I knew in my own heart that I wanted it to continue, and if there was anything I was willing to do to make it possible, I was willing to do anything."

The center has managed to pay a portion of its back taxes over to the IRS and is working out a payment plan with the state for its payroll taxes. And still the center is $65,000 in the red.

"We have a lot of debt to pay down, and we are working with all our creditors," Heatley said."They have all been very nice when I've talked with them and willing to work with us."

The center is closing its thrift store and will close its warehouse by the end of the month.

It's also losing its Bike Shed, a bike repair and donation program, but board members are hopeful that somebody else or entity can take it over.

"We feel like our core programs are best in this economy, so that's what we are going to stick to," Heatley said.

Those key programs include Feed the Hungry, senior meal program, a winter needs program ("Keep Them Warm"), firewood vouchers and Becca's Closet.

Heatley says she wants to thank community members, Deschutes County, the city of Bend and the United Way for their help.  

United Way of Deschutes County has frozen its funding for now, due to the financial problems, but board members are positive they will be able to continue funding.

"If the programs can be made sustainable, and we believe that they can, there's no reason for us to believe that we won't continue to fund them," said Ken Wilhelm, executive director of the local United Way agency.

For now, Bend's Community Center board members remain optimistic.

"We are good, we've got good morale and everyone is happy," Heatley said. "The seniors are happy they get to stay here, and people on Sunday are happy that we are still here. We plan to be in the future."

The community center is throwing a back in business benefit blowout sale at their warehouse this Thursday through Saturday.

The center has also set up a bank account at the Wall Street branch of Columbia Bank, if you would like to donate to their programs.

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