Nonprofit officials surprised by move

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 8, 2013 

— Officials from Healthy House, a Merced-based nonprofit, are voicing concerns over losing a contract to the United Way of Merced County — a decision they maintain came as a surprise.

Several members of the nonprofit plan to attend the United Way's board meeting 6 p.m. today to express their concerns.

The contract, between Healthy House and Mercy Medical Center, was to provide a language bank. The language bank offers interpretation services for medical patients in about a dozen languages, according to Healthy House officials.

The program has been facilitated by Healthy House since 2005.

The nonprofit charges the hospital $35 an hour for the services. Healthy House earned $700,000 in revenue from the language bank last year, according to the Rev. Phil Jenkins, chairman of the Healthy House board.

Healthy House officials said Tuesday the agency wasn't aware the hospital was looking for another provider until they received a letter July 5.

"It was not something we would expect," Jenkins said. "There was nothing that indicated the service that Healthy House was providing was not acceptable or meeting their expectations."

Jenkins said United Way setting up a competing language bank is especially troubling because Healthy House is a partner agency of United Way.

"I think United Way needs to take the position not to compete with one of the agencies it supports," Jenkins said.

An Aug. 12 letter to the United Way Board of Directors from Healthy House officials outlines this concern: "As partners with United Way, we have a reasonable expectation that neither of us will take unfair advantage of the other," the letter reads. "We have had this contract since 2005. It is critical to our continued operation."

United Way officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The United Way board meeting will be tonight at the agency's office, 658 W. Main St., Merced.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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