A Modesto faith-based nonprofit group is scaling back to a smaller office to help make ends meet in a difficult economy.
Advancing Vibrant Communities, a 7½-year-old agency that helps people with resources mostly from Christian volunteers and churches, cited the "challenging" economy in its decision to close its office on Coffee Road next week.
The organization will continue its work "in cyberspace for a time" until it secures cheaper digs, possibly in downtown Modesto, said founder and chief executive Michael Douglass.
He said he may have a new location to announce this week or next, but declined to mention a specific address until the deal receives the approval of AVC's board of directors and the landlord.
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The move from a 2,500-square-foot office to one about half that size will reduce the agency's overhead "by about 70 percent," according to an AVC update.
"We only have three full-time staff members, a part-time bookkeeper, and the rent and overhead," Douglass said Monday. "We couldn't really cut personnel. So it made sense to look at cutting the rent.
"I think God's going to take us to a completely new level, move us closer to the pulse of the city," he said. "I think ultimately it's going to be a positive. I hate moving, but God is engineering this."
Douglass said AVC's annual income has averaged $126,000 to $156,000 the past several years. Donations from churches, he said, have remained fairly constant, with a small drop in individual giving. But overall donations are down this year by 32 percent, mostly because of a 90 percent drop in giving from community foundations.
For example, Douglass said, AVC had received donations from County Bank's foundation, but those ended when the bank folded this year.
AVC's current landlord has "forgiven" a couple of months' rent over the past few years, Douglass said. He and his assistant, Elaine Harian, have voluntarily cut their monthly pay in half a couple of times in the past year.
Moving will help avoid such things, he said.
AVC could operate without an office, Douglass said, instead using the Internet and phones to hook up its 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers a year with needs that range from supplying cribs to painting over graffiti.
But, he added, "We're all about relationships, with the people in need, with the volunteers, with the churches and other organizations. If you take that away, you take the heart out of our ministry. We need to talk to people face to face."
The agency's thrift store that opened in July, Thrifts, Gifts and Collectibles, will remain at 410 Coffee Road.
Advancing Vibrant Communities will close its location at 422 B Coffee Road no later than Nov. 14. Until it opens a new office, people with needs and volunteers can contact AVC by phone at 544-9571 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or email@example.com.