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Worsening budget crisis costs nonprofit director his job

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Financial difficulties led Teach My People board members to donate $50,000 of their own money and lay off the executive director.

“In order to allow Teach My People to continue its mission and fulfill its vision, we have been forced to lay off our executive director, Johnny Ford,” board chairman Carl Falk wrote last week in a letter to families of Teach My People students. “This has been an agonizing experience for all board members as we all love Johnny, but this was necessary for Teach My People’s survival.”

Board members and the remaining staff at the nonprofit will fill in as needed, but Falk doesn’t foresee hiring another executive director or rehiring Ford.

“He’s certainly rehirable,” Falk said. “But we’re looking to – I don’t want to use the word reorganize – just figure out how to use the board to fill the role of executive director.”

Ford declined to comment on the board’s move.

The board’s unanimous decision to lay off Ford comes at a time when the nonprofit Christian mentoring program is struggling to survive after grants it relied on were cut and donations from the community fell.

“We’re always aware that at any time you can run into financial issues if your donor base doesn’t come through,” Bob Callahan, the board’s treasurer, said.

Board members will continue to donate their own money to keep the nonprofit active until the end of the school year. At that time, the number of students participating falls from 80 to around 60, but Callahan doesn’t see costs changing.

Teach My People will have to hire a lifeguard and additional staff for the full-day summer programs, he said.

The nonprofit’s annual budget is $300,000, the majority of which goes toward payroll since its building on Waverly Road is paid for, Callahan said.

Approximately 18 to 20 percent went to pay Ford’s benefits and salary. Staff members for grades one through five, one for middle school and one for high school, earn about $13 per hour, and according to Falk, they don’t receive benefits.

“Many of them have to find other part-time jobs to make ends meet,” he said.

Food for students’ dinners and snacks is often donated, and volunteers provide piano lessons and act as mentors.

“This program is probably run more efficiently than most, given the number of children and programs, and the fact that it’s essentially a 12-month-a-year program for the amount of money that it costs,” Callahan said.

But more financial help is needed in order to fund its summer program.

While fewer children attend during eight weeks of summer vacation, the children who do are at Teach My People all day.

As a result, the board must pay staff more since they work full-time rather after school.

But for Callahan and Falk, it’s worth the cost.

“We have found that without a summer program, our students probably lose some of their reading, writing and math skills,” Falk said.

In addition to fun and education, Teach My People’s summer program provides a safe, warm and loving environment for the children.

“You can only imagine how their summer hours would be spent without Teach My People,” he wrote in a fundraising letter to former donors.

Falk and other board members will continue to solicit donations for the nonprofit, but they also hope their June 23 golf tournament is fruitful.

Although funding is down this year, Callahan sees a bright future for Teach My People.

Callahan believes they can raise $30,000 at the golf event. Last year the tournament raised $25,000 and a gospel brunch raised $51,000.

The June 23 golf tournament begins at 2:30 p.m. at True Blue. The cost is $100 per participant before May 23; $125 after. For tickets call 237-8738.

Mail donations to Teach My People, 753 Waverly Rd, P.O. Box 2848, Pawleys Island, SC 29585.

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