SOUTH GLENDALE — In severe debt and under scrutiny for how it handled federal grant money for a failed expansion plan, the nonprofit New Horizons Family Center has closed its doors after 16 years of serving low-income families.
New Horizons founder Maria Prieto, whose former last name was Rochart, on Friday notified Glendale officials of the center's impending closure, said Jess Duran, interim director of the Community Services & Parks Department.
The news came less than a week after she had said she was focusing consolidated operations at the headquarters at 744 S. Glendale Ave.
Prieto, who was at the center on Wednesday, confirmed the closure, but declined to elaborate. She could not be reached later in the day.
The closure has left city officials and local service providers scrambling to find alternatives for New Horizons clients who have relied on the nonprofit for daily childcare services.
"It really is going to leave a gap in the community unless someone can step in to pick up the pieces," said Camille Levee, executive director of Glendale Healthy Kids, which matches low-income children with medical and dental services. "It's just going to leave a tremendous gap that we are all going to have to pull together to help fill."
New Horizons officials were also on hand this week to provide families with referrals, Duran said.
The center had been serving up to 150 children.
"It happened very suddenly," Duran said. "There is no time to plan or to reach out. So we are doing that now."
Salvation Army Glendale, which currently operates an after-school program for about 40 children, can accept between 10 to 15 now with its current funding levels, said Capt. Rio Ray.
"We will take as many as we possibly can," he said, adding that additional funding could expand the program.
He was disappointed to hear the nonprofit would be shuttering its doors, Ray added.
"It's always a sobering and scary thing when you see another not-for-profit go out of business," he said.
New Horizons received more than $1 million in federal Community Development Block Grants, along with stimulus funding for social services and capital improvements in the past decade — all of it allocated through City Hall.
Prieto's financing came under scrutiny last year after she announced she was scrapping plans for a long-awaited expansion project after spending $300,000 in federal funding on pre-development costs.
Representatives of at least two foundations Prieto listed on grant applications said they never made any funding assurances to New Horizons. But Prieto has said that the economic recession caused potential funders to pull out.
Financial records also showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding back payroll taxes and personal loans to the nonprofit, in addition to multiple lines of credit and overdrawn bank accounts.
Prieto said last week she had reached a tentative agreement to sell three vacant properties for $1.4 million, which would allow the New Horizons to repay the federal funds and other debts.
Zareh Sinanyan, chairman of the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee, which advises the City Council on funding allocations, said he would be looking to other organizations during next year's funding cycle to pick up the slack left by New Horizons.
"New Horizons is going to leave a void that needs to be filled by other organizations," he said. "We are going to make sure that void is neutralized."