By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Bend’s Community Center will close its doors at 1036 NE Fifth St. in February, ending 18 years of serving seniors and lower-income Bend residents.

Sheila Collins, operations director for the center, said the board recently decided to cease operations effective Feb. 16. The organization has struggled with fundraising in recent years, she said, and board members have concluded other programs in the community are doing a better job at providing essentially the same services.

The community center’s current programs include a Sunday afternoon meal, a four-day-a-week meal for seniors, and a day care. The organization also distributes tents, sleeping bags and other supplies to homeless Bend residents.

Amanda Lenke, until recently a community center board member, said the many similar nonprofits that have opened or expanded over the last 18 years have made fundraising locally more competitive.

She said the organization hasn’t always been effective at communicating changes to past donors and would-be donors.

“Over the years, so many organizations have opened up and duplicate the services,” Lenke said. “Which is not a bad thing — we want to serve these people; it’s basic human nature to want to help people that can’t help themselves.”

The community center was more than $100,000 in debt and on the brink of shutting down in 2012 but managed to restructure its operations.

The troubles in 2012 spurred the center to cut back or eliminate several programs it once offered. A thrift store and job training and bicycle repair programs were closed, and a seniors’ lunch program was shifted to the Bend Senior Center, operated by the Bend Park & Recreation District.

Collins said the organization has since paid off its debts, aside from the mortgage on its building on NE Fifth Street. She said the board intends to sell the building and hopes to distribute the proceeds to other charitable organizations in the community. The community center bought the former church from the city of Bend in 2003 for $325,000.

Former board member Jamie Giannioses said though it’s sad to imagine the end of Bend’s Community Center, other organizations in Bend are well-positioned to fill the void when it closes. He said the community center has had strong relationships with groups like The Shepherd’s House, Bethlehem Inn and Family Kitchen, all of which do good work serving vulnerable populations.

Collins said staff and volunteers at Bend’s Community Center should be proud of what the organization has accomplished over 18 years — more than 350,000 meals served, more than 46,000 people clothed, and showers and camping supplies provided to thousands of homeless residents of the community.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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