The announcement came in a prepared statement faxed to the Cleveland Daily Banner.
“This decision was made after months of discussion and tremendous effort to resolve our financial situation,” according to the prepared statement. “The agency has struggled since January 2010 due to funding cuts in December. Our efforts to appeal funding decisions and to merge with a Chattanooga agency (Chattanooga Cares) were not successful.”
Nancy’s House opened in 1996 and has operated through the funding support of state and federal grants, private fundraisers, individual donations and United Way funding, said Dick Pelley, board chairman. In December, the agency learned it had lost $30,000 in state grants and $55,000 in United Way funding, the latter of which included $53,000 from United Way of Bradley County and $2,000 from the United Way affiliate in McMinn County.
The agency lost appeals of both decisions.
Pelley blamed the loss of state funding over procedural disagreements. He deferred questions about the loss of United Way funding to the local nonprofit.
Brenda Abel, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Bradley County, said the local organization explained its funding decision in a “Letter to the Editor” dated March 31. The letter was published in a subsequent edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
In the letter, Abel provided detailed reasons why a United Way fund distribution panel recommended allocations to Nancy’s House be discontinued. Some included 1) Nancy’s House had been a United Way grant recipient for several years, but had failed to make changes necessary to be considered for member-agency status; 2) the agency had lost other funding sources that would have increased its dependency on future United Way funding; 3) funding decisions are made annually without assurances of continued funding; 4) the agency serves clients in four counties, but receives little funding from McMinn and Meigs; 5) when United Way allocations were made in December, the fundraising goal had not yet been reached; 6) uncollectible pledges limit United Way’s outreach each year; and 7) four agencies in addition to Nancy’s House received “considerably less” funding based on panel recommendations.
“The panels spent many hours discussing budgets and services and made extremely difficult decisions about how the money should be spent this year,” Abel’s letter explained. “We certainly regret that this decision had to be made, but we feel a strong responsibility to look at all aspects of each agency’s request and fund agencies that will produce the most significant outcomes for the community.”
She added, “Chattanooga Cares works closely with clients of Nancy’s House and their agency is set up to provide some of the same services as Nancy’s House.”
Even with the closure of the facility, area residents can continue to contact the Bradley County Health Department for HIV testing, Pelley noted.
He said in spite of efforts to continue the facility’s operation, Nancy’s House board and staff members realized the agency could not be allowed “ ... to go in a hole.”
“We wanted to go out with some dignity,” Pelley offered. He said the agency’s board and staff felt it was best to close the facility instead of operating with only limited services.
Upon its closure, Nancy’s House was serving 62 clients from Bradley, Polk, Meigs and McMinn counties. The agency provided a food and toiletry pantry, case management and support groups, transportation to medical appointments and financial support for rent, utilities, medication and other client needs.
“We regret that we will no longer be able to provide the community with such services as free confidential HIV testing with results in 20 minutes, community education and prevention, church and youth group presentations, and staff training, to name a few,” the statement read.
The statement thanked Nancy’s House supporters, donors and volunteers. “We appreciate every one of you,” it added. “Thank you to the organizations, schools and businesses who allowed us to do our presentations and participate in community health fairs.”
Nancy’s House was named in memory of Nancy Cardwell, an HIV victim who was diagnosed at age 17 and who died seven years later. She would have turned 39 later this month.
“Her dream of providing support for HIV-positive individuals and teaching the community about prevention began in 1995,” the statement closed. “We are sorry to see it come to an end.”