AP NEWS

Lincoln Indian Center fights to stay in operation

December 22, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Marshall Prichard said keeping the doors open at the Lincoln Indian Center is like flying an airplane while trying to fix it at the same time.

Prichard rejoined the center’s board of directors this summer in hopes of reviving the community center in midst of financial woes. But after discovering insurmountable unpaid bills and firing the center’s former manager, Prichard learned earlier this month that the center lost a $70,000 government grant.

Prichard told the Lincoln Journal Star that though a dire task, the center is worth fighting for, because the community “thinks this place is important.”

The center, which helps feeds the elderly and provide value to the Native American community, is now fundraising and trying to rebuild its reputation in the community.

When he served as director in the 1970s, Prichard helped move the center to its current home north of Memorial Stadium. He remembers the center drawing more than 150 community members and employing at least 100 people. Now, the center has two full-time employees, one part timer and about $140,000 worth of debt.

Georgiana Ausan, appointed as the center’s interim executive director in October, said the recently lost $70,000 grant kept the heat on, lights running and trash out. A full-time administrator role for the center’s food program was cut with the loss of the grant as well.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services also terminated the Lincoln Indian Center’s role as the administrator and distribution site for the federal Commodities Supplemental Food Program. The department cited “irregularities in the financial practices and concerns about organizational capacity that have recently come to light.”

The food program — in partnership with the Food Bank of Lincoln — has been helping feed eligible senior citizens in the area for decades. The Food Bank’s director, Scott Young, said he would rather the program stay the same, “but we see the needs these seniors have.”

Ausan acknowledged that the public’s trust in the center is broken, but she said “it’s really important we keep the public aware as much as possible of what’s going on, going forward, and what are we going to do to get out of this mess.”

The center received $7,500 from a pair of online fundraisers including donations by the Lincoln Community Foundation and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. Ausan said the center is still seeking donations through the Lincoln Community Foundation so donors know their money is being spent appropriately.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com