After months of struggling to raise $97,000 for a down payment on a building that a Pacoima-based charitable organization wants to use as a community center, group leaders Tuesday said they are about $15,000 short of their goal with two weeks remaining before the close of escrow.
But they also said they are unequivocally confident the money is going to come in.
For more than a decade, MEND, which stands for Meet Each Need With Dignity, has concentrated on giving food and clothing to the poor. Last January, when told it would either have to buy or vacate the old drapery cleaning building it had rented for more than two years, the group set out on the ambitious fund-raising project.
But, when the original April 7 escrow deadline passed, only $60,000 had been raised and the group was forced to seek an extension until April 30.
"There's no problem. There's no doubt in my mind we will have it," said Ed Rose of Mission Hills, one of the leaders of the volunteer organization. "We just didn't get the money quite quick enough."
MEND volunteers have held car washes, appealed to church congregations, sent letters to longtime donors and taken a homemade booklet containing snapshots and photocopied sheets describing their work to local businesses.
"We are not professional fund-raisers," said Bob von Frankkenberg of Northridge, MEND director. "We're regular workers, guys who work in garages or at Lockheed. We don't use fancy words on poverty."
$1,000 a Day
In the past week, Rose said, money has been coming in at a rate of about $1,000 a day.
"I know we are going to continue at this pace and that puts us right at our goal by the 30th," Rose said.
"We keep getting $10 or $15 checks from people who we didn't even ask for money," Rose said. "And then when we call the number on the check to say thanks, they tell us that somebody in their office told them about us. I guess this is really a grass-roots effort."
MEND started 14 years ago with a stack of used clothing for the needy that was stored in Rose's garage. It has since grown into one of the most active emergency needs organizations in the San Fernando Valley, with about 200 volunteers who distributed food, clothing and furniture to more than 7,000 people last year.
It recently expanded its services to include English classes, which attract about 175 students per session, and an "at-cost" food store. The organization has rented the run-down drapery-cleaning building it now occupies in the 13400 block of Van Nuys Boulevard for 2 1/2 years.
Leaders say the building, in the heart of one of the poorest sections of Pacoima, has become the heart of the organization's programs. When its leaders were told by property owners that an offer had been made to buy the building, the organization decided to take the plunge and buy it for $225,000.
Inside a huge warehouse room where old drapery rods still circle the ceiling, MEND leaders envision bigger classrooms, a health room and an emergency food pantry.
"Our whole focus now has been getting the building," Rose said. "Now we will start working on renovation. This is only the beginning."