Charity faces layoffs

Depending largely on volunteer help, the Independence office of Lighthouse Emergency Services has only five employees.
It appears they will have to learn how to maintain services with only three.
Word from the Pontiac headquarters is that no firm decision has been made, but Katie Stewart, manager of what is popularly known as ‘Lighthouse North,? said they have been advised to prepare for the cut.
‘We worry about it, that we’ll be able to continue to help the clients,? Stewart said.
Nancy Kort, manager of communications for Lighthouse of Oakland County, said the ‘restructuring? under consideration is because of rising demand and decreasing income across their entire system.
‘We are just in a real bad situation here,? Kort said. ‘The last thing we want to do is lay off staff. It’s something we have to do. It’s very painful for us to have to make a decision like this.?
For more than 30 years, Lighthouse of Oakland County has billed itself as a ‘beacon of help, hope and encouragement? for low-income families, senior citizens and others with ‘immediate needs? for food, medicine, transportation or temporary shelter. Lighthouse Emergency Services is a subsidiary of the Pontiac-based organization.
While Lighthouse North anticipates losing two employees, Kort could not say how many of the system’s 86 employees will be affected.
To illustrate the economic problem, Kort said the number of ‘services provided? has increased from 60,249 in 2000 to 82,701 in 2002. State funding, meanwhile, has decreased from $249,990 in 2000 to $197,369 in 2002. Grants from foundations and donations from individual citizens are also down, she said.
The goal of the ‘restructuring,? Kort said, is to find ways to be more efficient and cost-effective without hurting their primary mission.
‘It’s been a very conscientious decision to see how we can maintain client services,? she said.
Stewart sees the challenges first hand, and even understands why some donors may not be as forthcoming.
‘A lot of their jobs are uncertain right now,? Stewart said, and ‘our [service] stats have gone way up.?
While supporting the mission, Stewart admits that it’s not going to be easy, personally or professionally.
‘We have a family atmosphere here,? she said. ‘It’s going to be a real emotional day? when the layoffs are announced.
How will they get by with reduced staff?
‘With difficulty, as they say,? Stewart said, noting that it would take ‘a very large miracle? to avoid the layoffs.
The organization continues to seek financial donations and volunteer help. For more information, call (248) 920-6000 or (248) 620-6116.