Modesto’s Bethany Christian Services is facing a $150,000 shortfall in its current budget, enough of a gap that the nonprofit adoption and pregnancy resource agency could face staff and service cuts if donations aren’t received by the end of the month.
The shortfall is the result of a drop in donations for the 2014 fiscal year combined with an increase in requests for services, according to Lynette Redal Stime, the Northern California director for Bethany. The agency’s budget for the year is just shy of $1.6 million, she said.
“Our current shortfall is due to a combination of two things: stretching to respond to increased requests for services (on college campuses and at pregnancy clinics, for example) while receiving fewer donations than expected during the first half of the year,” Redal Stime said in an email interview. “While we don’t know exactly why some donations are down, it is true that some of our faithful supporters have been affected by the downturn in the economy and consequently have fewer resources to share.”
Modesto is home to Bethany Christian Services of Northern California, which provides services from Kern County to the Oregon border and from the Sierra to the Bay Area. There are 23 full- and part-time staff members; 13 of them work in Modesto.
The agency provides professional counseling, advocacy, education and adoption services – locally, nationally and internationally – and supportive services to expectant women and families. In addition, a residential ministry, Bethany’s House, offers housing to women in need during their pregnancies – about 10 percent of their clients, said Redal Stime. She has been at the helm in Modesto for nearly 33 years, since the office opened in November 1981.
“We provide lifelong support to all our clients – and all our services are provided at no charge to expectant parents (both mother and father) and their families,” she said. “This requires close to $830,000 in donations for 2014.” Keeping Bethany’s House open will alone cost close to $180,000 this year.
Adoptive families do pay a fee for services – and those families “are some of our most faithful supporters,” Redal Stime said. “They are grateful for the care their children’s birth parents received/receive and want to help any way they can.”
A letter went out earlier this month to Bethany’s adoptive families, letting them know of the shortfall and seeking financial help, both one-time and ongoing gifts: “The need is urgent … and decisions are being considered now as to services/staffing choices into 2015,” the letter states.
Outreach is key for an agency that deals mainly in confidentiality.
“… Since we are a highly confidential service, one that doesn’t lend itself to a lot of publicity, we are often described as one of the Valley’s best-kept secrets – which isn’t good when you’re trying to raise awareness and support,” Redal Stime said.
Former clients, local congregations, a fundraising guild and two major events – a golf tournament every October and a spring event that changes each year – provide the bulk of Bethany’s budget.
“Our funding comes from people who believe it is important to offer adoption and professional counseling services to those facing unplanned pregnancies,” Redal Stime said. “Those who support our work believe in the sacredness of every life – born and unborn – and want women to know they have hope, help and life-affirming options as they face this crisis in their lives.”
The letter that went out to families seeks help by Sept. 30 – a date that’s key because it marks the end of the third quarter, Redal Stime said. “We desire to be fiscally prudent, and if we need to reduce our staffing for a season, then we will do so. But we are doing everything we can to avoid that outcome.”
Reduced staffing will mean fewer services for women and families in the community, she added.
Redal Stime said her office is working to hold down expenses and has implemented a salary and hiring freeze. The local agency hasn’t seen this sort of budget crisis since the recession.
“We have not experienced this type of shortfall since 2009, when the economy collapsed, when we lost nearly one-third of our donation revenue,” she said. “Absorbing that drop required a 30 percent reduction of our staff, and we have been rebuilding our team carefully over the past five years.”
The Modesto office is part of the greater Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit family preservation and child welfare organization caring for orphans and vulnerable children on five continents. The organization was started in 1944 by two young women, Marguerite Bonnema and Mary DeBoer, who wanted to establish a Christian residence for homeless children. With the assistance of businessman Andrew VanderVeer, they established the first Bethany Home. The organization, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., now has 1,400 employees worldwide.
Redal Stime is confident the regional community will come through for the local agency and the women and families it serves.
“We believe we will be able to raise the funds necessary through intentional outreach,” she said, “and we will be able to go into 2015 strong.”