Options researched for Sun City Community Fund return

By Rusty Bradshaw
Independent Newsmedia

The initial steps to restore the Sun City Community Fund were taken during an April 30 meeting between Valley of the Sun United Way officials and Community Fund board members and supporters.

Discussion last week revolved around two options — finding another entity to administer the personal needs fund or have the Community Fund board take over administration. The latter option is based on the fact the Sun City West Community Fund, an all-volunteer group, is its own administrator, according to Vicki Frye, Community Fund coordinator.

Vicki Frye

“The Sun City West Community Fund is a free-standing organization,” she explained. “And it works, so why couldn’t it work for us?”

Ms. Frye plans to discuss the Sun City West group’s structure and organization with its leadership to gauge the possibilities of “cloning” it to serve the Sun City group’s needs.

While nothing has yet been scheduled, United Way and Community Fund officials will likely meet again in the coming weeks to discuss the results of planned research into the two options, according to Ms. Frye.

The Sun City Community Fund, which for years administered a personal needs fund for residents with emergency needs, was originally administered by its local board prior to 2000 when about $2 million in funds were signed over to Valley of the Sun United Way and the Community Fund came under that agency’s umbrella, according to Tanya Muniz, Valley of the Sun United Way chief financial officer. At that time administration of the personal needs fund was taken over by Banner Olive Branch Senior Center, 11250 N. 107th Ave. But in October 2015, Fund officials partnered with the Sun City Home Owners Association for administration of the funds. Officials at that time believed the move would increase the opportunities to help Sun City residents in need.

But when new board members were seated in 2018, SCHOA officials began debating whether it was a good fit, according to Jim Hunter, SCHOA board president.

He added SCHOA officials believed the Community Fund did not fit in SCHOA’s mission. SCHOA’s administration of the Community Fund ended Oct. 31.

United Way officials were able to secure a contract with Banner Olive Branch to again administer the funds beginning Dec. 1, 2018, according to Laura Kaiser, United Way media representative. Banner Olive Branch officials in December and January took some applications, but no funds were distributed prior to Olive Branch officials’ notification they would no longer operate the personal needs fund, she added.

Olive Branch officials took on the fund again because of its long history providing food, social services and other important assistance to seniors in need, according to Jeff Nelson, Banner Health spokesman.

“We chose to relinquish our role as administrator in February after it became apparent that we could not guarantee delivery of assistance checks in the 24- to 48-hour timeframe sometimes required of those in need,” he explained.

Ms. Muniz and Jayson Matthews, Valley of the Sun United Way community impact director, are eager to find a solution that would bring the Community Fund back into operation. Ideally, finding an existing entity to administer the funds is preferred. But they are open to the Fund board acting as administrator, either during an interim period until an entity is secured, or on a permanent basis.

“We want to get the Community Fund operating again to help those Sun City residents who are in need,” Ms. Muniz said.

Ms. Frye said she approached several Sun City entities but none were interested under requirements of United Way officials, including providing audited financial books and other documentation. However, those requirements can be flexible, according to Mr. Matthews.

“We want to look at any organizations that are spending these dollars to make sure they are fiscally sound,” he said.

But if the right organization is found, Ms. Muniz said there could be ways to get past the perceived barriers.

“We would want to talk to them and see what we can do,” she said. “We just want to make sure the accountability is in place.”

Ms. Frye said an administering agency must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit because of the Fund’s affiliation with the United Way.

Since the 2000 merger of funds, the Community Fund has received $25,000 each fiscal year for the personal needs fund. While Ms. Muniz did not have exact figures, some of the 2018-19 allocation was distributed during the time SCHOA was administering last year. The remainder of the funds are still available and might be rolled over into the 2019-20 fiscal year allocation.

The personal needs funds were used to pay residents’ utilities, medications and other life-sustaining items, according to Ms. Frye.

“But the recipients had to prove the need,” she explained. “And there was a $3,000 lifetime cap for each resident who applied.”

The Fund was coordinated by the late Jim Green, who died in early-2018. Ms. Frye, Fund board vice president at the time, has coordinated the agency’s efforts since then.

Editor’s Note: Rusty Bradshaw is a Sun City Community Fund board member.

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