Trying times for Sierra 2 have included rays of hope

Concerns about a virus that seemed to be spreading rapidly with serious effects in older populations forced the Senior Center at the Sierra 2 Center to shut down on March 13, 2020. Five days later, a statewide lockdown closed all of Sierra 2. Events were canceled.

The lockdown was expected to be two weeks in duration. A year later, we are adjusting, adapting and surviving. We’re also hoping, planning and positioning for a new normal.

The cancellation of rentals, events and classes in the closure’s early months forced a rash of refunds and depletion of Sierra 2’s cash reserve. Staffing levels were reduced. Business operating expenses were reduced, deferred or eliminated. Nonessential services and maintenance were put on hold to stabilize the net losses. Classes moved to virtual offerings.

From a staff of 14, seven of them full time, the new normal is down to seven employees and one on-call, who all work less than 20 hours per week.

Through the trials and tribulations of trying to stop the financial bleeding, there have been rays of hope, generosity and government lifelines. SCNA benefitted from a $12,000 forgivable loan from the city at the beginning of the closure. In May, we received $80,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable loan that enabled us to bring back most of the staff for two months while also assisting with utilities and other COVID-related expenses. While this was short lived, it provided an important infusion of activity and an opportunity to care for employees who have given so much over the years and who suffered during this trying time.

Another $44,000 grant from the city through the CARES funding program soon followed, helping us with basic business continuity. In February, with great relief, we received a second draw from the Paycheck Protection Program for $106,000.

With SCNA’s support and leadership, generous community donors contributed more than $53,000 during the Big Day of Giving in May and $18,000 to the Porch Picnic fundraiser in October. These unrestricted funds are key to the financial survival of SCNA.

Even with these funding sources, the costs of continuing minimal operations, administration and managing the property have required use of $50,000 from SCNA’s Reserve for Replacement Fund, which is normally set aside for major facility repairs and replacements.

Dipping into this fund hinders our long-term ability to properly care for the property. We know that planned repairs and replacement costs for the facility over the next five years will range between $400,000 and $500,000. In normal years, with income exceeding expenses, we could manage such an expense. Not knowing when normal operations will resume, this situation is tenuous.

We are applying for grants that become available from a wide variety of grant makers wherever we qualify.

Our singular focus is to survive for as long as we need to until we can turn survival into rebuilding and thriving.

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