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The Open Line and Upper Perk Senior Center to Merge
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

      After more than two years of information gathering, discussion, research and plenty of meetings, the board of directors for The Open Line and the Upper Perkiomen Senior Community Center have reached a preliminary agreement to merge later this year.

        Bonnie Gillespie, chair of the board of directors for the senior center, and Greg Dickey, chair of the board of directors for The Open Line, issued a joint statement on Monday to announce the merger.
        The groups, located in upper Montgomery County, have spent the last 24 months looking at the services they provide, in search of ways to join forces to maintain and improve their services.
        The project began as a community initiative referred to as the Upper Perkiomen Valley Community Services Coalition, spirited by a series of meetings between board members of local not-for-profit service organizations and community participants concerned about the delivery of those services. It resulted in public forums where information and suggestions continued to pour in regarding the present and future of needed community services.
        The effort originally included the Youth and Family Services organization; however, that group is scheduled to discontinue their operations this month.
        During an interview a year ago, Dickey, along with Kathy Clancy, board president for Youth and Family Services, and Carol Kress, board member for the Upper Perkiomen Senior Center, expressed concern about the waning level of funding from government. According to the group of officials, the United Way had restructured their allocation format and the groups no longer qualify for contributions from that organization.
At the time Dickey commented that, “We want to see how we can do more with less” and “We want to develop a business plan to follow because a lot of people’s interests are at stake.” Clancy added that the “need has grown and the money has dried up.” 
Funding from major private charitable organizations is often driven towards groups that collaborate in their services provided. Committing to join forces could improve their chances for securing funds from private foundations.
        According to the release, the two non-for-profit organizations have partnered together to provide quality programs and services to area residents and a merger presents increased opportunities for collaboration and growth that will benefit the entire community.
        A transition team was formed that consisted of the board chairpersons and the executive directors from each group along with two other members from each board of directors.
        A $50,000 grant from the Barra Foundation was obtained to help cover expenses of the merger discussions. The Barra Foundation, Inc. is a private, nonprofit philanthropic organization that serves the five-county Philadelphia region.
        Liz Vibber and Cindy Bergvall, from the consulting firm Catalyst Center for Nonprofit Management, were retained to advise the team on the feasibility of a merger. After careful deliberation, the transition team voted to move ahead and the board of directors for both organizations agreed.
        The statement went on to explain that the groups felt that the “merger is a natural progression of our decades of working well together and sharing a common vision. We believe that it will strengthen our organizations’ abilities to deliver on our missions, extend our reach into the community, create efficiencies and provide for long-term sustainability for our programs and services. We are committed to moving forward with minimal disruption to our existing services and programs, and both the Senior Center and The Open Line will continue to function as is through the end of the fiscal year. The transition team continues to meet with the consultants to work out the specific details of the merger, and we will continue to keep the public informed of our progress as we move forward. We appreciate your support and patience as we go through this transition.”
        Dickey said, “The goal is for one location eventually but for now The Open Line and senior center will share each other’s facilities as needed.” 
        The target date for the merger is July 1, 2013. Members from each board will become the board of directors for the merged group. There is no specific date for naming an executive director.
        Questions or concerns about the merger should be directed to Sandy Fetterman, PR Coordinator for The Open Line, at 215.679.4112 or by email at
        The Upper Perkiomen Senior Community Center is located at 517 Jefferson Street in East Greenville. The organization provides services and programs for adults that promote socialization, volunteerism, leadership, life-long learning, and healthy lifestyles. The vision is to promote opportunities for all adults to be active, healthy, and contributing members of the Upper Perkiomen Valley. 
        For information about the Senior Center, please contact Joy Luff, Center Manager, at (215) 679-6550.
        The Open Line, a multi-service agency in the Upper Perkiomen Valley, provides services and programs designed to help, inform, educate, and empower individuals and families. Located on 452 Penn Street in Pennsburg, The Open Line list of free and confidential services includes a food cupboard, counseling, domestic violence support services, employment counseling, financial assistance, GED preparation programs, holiday programs, and information and referral.
        For information about The Open Line, please contact Linda Connell, Interim Executive Director, at (215) 679-4112. 





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