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Community Foundation approves $100,000 loan to North County Family Health Center

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The Northern New York Community Foundation’s board of directors awarded the North Country Family Health Center a $100,000 loan Tuesday to help the struggling nonprofit agency remain open.

Community Foundation Executive Director Rande S. Richardson said the no-interest loan doesn’t come without a catch, as agency leadership will have to prove the health center has met several components of a work plan being developed before payment begins.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t substantially convinced there was a solid plan for sustainability,” he said. “We expect this will provide further motivation to adhere to the work plan being drawn up, so there will be significant strings tied to this loan.”

That plan of sustainability is something that has yet to be approved by the state Department of Health. The state stepped in after the center, 238 Arsenal St., faced closure in early October due to financial and operational struggles. Samaritan Medical Center then was approved by the department to oversee the health center’s operations on a temporary basis. Samaritan also gave the health center a loan of up to $200,000.

The terms of both Samaritan’s and the Community Foundation’s loans have yet to be finalized.

In October, the center’s debt had reached $1.5 million; an updated amount was not available Tuesday.

“We believe this is a short-term cash-flow issue that can be corrected with the right policies and procedures,” Mr. Richardson said.

The Community Foundation also wanted to protect its investments in the health center, he said, as its board of directors had approved a total of $721,000 in financial assistance since the center’s inception four decades ago. In October, Mr. Richardson said the foundation’s investments have been worthwhile since those funds benefited people for whom they were intended.

Since the 1970s, grants have supported the health center’s implementation and continuation of programs and services, and covered administrative and other operational costs.

Samaritan officials refused comment Tuesday, and deferred questions to the foundation. Mr. Richardson said it was Samaritan that approached the Community Foundation for financial assistance, on behalf of the North Country Family Health Center.

Meanwhile, Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said details of the work plan are expected to be announced next month.

Other grants awarded Tuesday include:

n $25,000 for 42 food pantries and the Watertown Salvation Army soup kitchen to help stock shelves with food.

n $10,000 to Hospice of Jefferson County for software upgrades.

n $985 to the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce for a scholarship to Jefferson Leadership Institute for a nonprofit agency that otherwise could not afford to send someone through that program.

n $750 to the North Country Library System to fund an e-book/e-reader initiative to help increase accessability for the visually impaired.

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