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Summit House aims to diversify funding

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Bill Shelton

Bill Shelton

Todd  Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With government funding accounting for 56 percent of its annual budget of roughly $1.9 million, Summit House has taken some big hits because of the economic recession and state budget crisis.

The nonprofit, which provides residential treatment in Charlotte, the Piedmont and the Triangle for non-violent female offenders and their children, has had to reduce staff salaries, trim hours for some employees and leave staff positions unfilled.

But despite a reduction to $1 million from $1.2 million in its funding approved by state lawmakers, Summit House actually has increased its capacity so it can serve more women and children, and is looking for a new Triangle facility that will increase its capacity even more.

The group also aims to diversify its funding base and reduce its dependence on state funding.

“That’s a formula for disaster right now,” says Bill Shelton, who joined Summit House as its Charlotte-based executive director last October.

Summit House, which was launched in Greensboro in 1987 as an alternative to incarceration, and added facilities in Charlotte and Raleigh in 1995, serves 22 families a year.

Each woman can have two children with her from pregnancy through age seven, with stays ranging from 12 months to two years, and typically lasting 18 months.

All of the residents have committed a non-violent felony and typically have been abused or are substance abusers.

Summit House aims to equip residents with “all the necessary life skills they would need to sustain themselves as productive citizens,” says Shelton, who most recently served as Charlotte regional director of development and business affairs at Easter Seals UCP.

Residents receive support in parenting and job skills, and must have a job to graduate from the program.

While it looks for a new facility in the Triangle, Summit House has closed the Raleigh facility that had housed six families.

Some of the families that were living there graduated, and the others have been relocated.

Overall, despite the closing, Summit House now houses two more families overall, with no increase in budget, because it has moved into larger facilities it acquired in Charlotte and the Piedmont

And with the new Triangle facility, which it aims to buy through a public-private partnership, Summit House likely will be able to house another 10 to 12 families, Shelton says.

To cope with cuts in the organization’s funding, the staff has been reduced to 31 employees from 35 a year ago.

The three members of its corporate staff and its three site directors all have taken 10 percent pay cuts, and the rest of its staff have taken five percent cuts.

The work week also has been cut to four days for members of the Raleigh staff and for several members of the Greensboro staff, some of whom do not now get health coverage through Summit House because they are not full-time employees.

Shelton says that in the contract he signed when he joined Summit House last year, he opted not to receive health-insurance other than dental coverage because the organization could not afford it.

Summit House also has submitted grants request totaling nearly $500,000 to foundations, and has launched its first-ever annual campaign, aiming to raise at least $350,000 to help address its deficit.

Each member of the group’s board will identify prospective donors and set individual fundraising goals, and the organization will be sponsoring fundraising events at board members’ homes.

Summit House, Shelton says, is a good investment.

Based on what it otherwise would cost the state each year to incarcerate its residents and care for their children, he says, “we save the state around $750,000.”

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