By Rusty Bradshaw
The Sun City Community Fund, which for years administered a personal needs fund for residents with emergency needs, could be back in operation, but it is uncertain when that will happen.
Community Fund board members and Valley of the Sun United Way officials are trying to arrange a meeting to discuss options for the fund and its future. So far, a meeting has not been scheduled. Three weeks ago there was a call to board members of an upcoming conference call, but that changed to an in-person meeting with no date was set by press time.
“We asked for a conference call, but they did not want to have the discussion over the phone,” said Vicki Frye, coordinator. “Now we’re just waiting for that in-person meeting.”
For years the Community Fund was administered 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.
Lloyd Maple, then-SCHOA board president, believed the Community Fund was an asset to Sun City residents because it would provide additional monies to the SCHOA community intervention programs — one for residents physically or financially unable to keep up with property maintenance and the other for vacant properties that are simply unmaintained.
“There have been situations when we needed the funds but did not have them,” Mr. Maple said in the 2015 meeting. “We are absolutely excited about this.”
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.
“This program has been in discussion at least since December of 2017 when the new board officers were seated,” he stated in a July 2018 email. “When seated we reviewed the budget [adopted in September/October] and a myriad of documents and history. Subsequent discussions continued from January on, so no, it was not a sudden decision.”
However, Community Fund officials were not part of those discussions and were notified via email by Carole Studdard, then-SCHOA executive director, that the HOA would no longer administer Community Fund monies after Dec. 31 2018, according to Ms. Frye.
“Due to having a small staff as well as the board doesn’t feel the responsibility fits the SCHOA mission statement, ‘To provide for the wellbeing of Sun City through fair and universal compliance with the CC&Rs,’” Ms. Studdard stated in the June 4, 2018 email.
Ms. Frye said she received a second email July 3, 2018 from Tom Wilson, SCHOA general manager, informing her SCHOA would cease administration of the Community Fund 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.
United Way officials want to find a solution that gets the Sun City Community Fund operating again.
“United Way is committed to continuing our partnership with the Sun City Community Fund and finding a solution,” Ms. Kaiser said.
Banner officials chose to relinquish their role as administrator in February after it became apparent they could not guarantee delivery of assistance checks in the 24- to 48-hour timeframe sometimes required of those in need, according to Jeff Nelson, Banner spokesman. The entire fund was transferred to Valley of the Sun United Way, which is working diligently to identify a new organization to administer the fund, he added.
“Banner will work closely with United Way to ensure a smooth transition to the new fund administrator,” he added.
Mr. Hunter explained SCHOA has four part-time compliance officers plus an assistant compliance manager to deal with 300-500 reported CC&R violations monthly. Administering the Community Fund was primarily the responsibility of that assistant compliance manager, who often spent half or more of his day doing so at the expense of dealing with and assisting in the resolution of violations, he added.
When she received word in June of SCHOA’s decision to drop administration of the Community Fund, Ms. Frye informed her fellow board members and asked for suggestions on agencies to approach. Ms. Frye said an administering agency must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit because of the Fund’s affiliation with the United Way.
“It is a shame these funds are not available to the community right now,” Ms. Frye said.
The Fund was coordinated by the late Jim Green, who died in early-2018. Ms. Frye, Fund board vice president, has coordinated the agency’s efforts since then.
Editor’s Note: Rusty Bradshaw is a Sun City Community Fund board member.