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It Takes a Village 

Bend's Community Center welcomes new directo

Bend's Community Center found the new face it was looking for in Shannon Ries, who began working as its executive director last week. Ries brings a track record of success to the 16-year-old nonprofit and aims to expand its reach into the community.

Ries previously served as the executive director of the Redmond Learning Center. She says while she was at RLC, she increased enrollment, raised the center's community profile, and stabilized it finances. She moved to Bend eight years ago from California, where she worked as a fundraiser for the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Association.

BCC Board President Amanda Lenke says Ries is a perfect fit for her new role.

"The board thinks Shannon is pretty extraordinary," says Lenke. "She's great with people and with numbers. While working at the Redmond Learning Center, she doubled the organization's budget. She's exactly what we need."

BCC, located at 1036 NE 5th Street, serves the community by providing basic needs and support to seniors, and to vulnerable families and individuals. To serve its guests, BCC must raise money. Board president Lenke says one of Ries' strongest suits is her ability to connect with everyone involved in the center.

"When we were interviewing for the position, we looked for someone who could relate to our guests and to our wealthy donors," Lenke explains. "We wanted someone who could communicate with our advocates, our seniors, and our homeless guests, all while having a great time. I knew from the moment I met Shannon that she was the right person for the job,"

The center offers a number of programs to aid those in need. Every Sunday, it operates the Feed The Hungry program, which boasts the largest food kitchen in Central Oregon and claims to serve more than 3,000 meals per month. According to its website, BCC also provides hundreds of meals for residents of Shepherds House, other local food kitchens, and area homeless camps.

Not long ago, BCC nearly went out of existence, in part because it was trying to provide too many programs. In 2012, its board voted to dissolve the nonprofit because of a growing six-figure debt. A procedural technicality kept the vote from taking effect, but the organization got the message. It cut all but its core programs and decreased its number of facilities, winning over a handful of generous donors and eventually winnowing down its debt.

"We're almost debt-free now," Lenke says, explaining that one of Ries' first tasks will be to "shore up and solidify" the center's existing programs and "make sure they're well funded and well run and highly functional. We just came out of a struggle. We want to be sure we're stable and can continue to provide the most essential services."

Ries defers questions about the center's medium- and long-term goals to its board of directors but says she has a vision of the future in which everyone knows about BCC.

"My dream is being able to walk up to anyone on the street in Bend and they know about the center because they've either been a guest, a volunteer or, a sponsor," says Ries.

Ries, whose primary roles as executive director are raising money and being the public face of BCC, says being an effective fundraiser for a nonprofit community organization requires passion and courage.

"You really have to believe in what you're doing," she says. "Your heart and your head have to be in the exact same place in order to have the confidence you need. You're walking up to people and asking them for money. Even if it's for a good cause, some people just can't do that because they're afraid of rejection."

Lenke says that one of Ries' key roles is growing and maintaining relationships with other agencies such as the United Way and the Central Oregon Council On Aging. Ries acknowledges that she has her work cut out for her.

"The community doesn't know the center well enough yet," she says. "We have a cadre of long-term volunteers. We help thousands of people in need. The city as a whole needs to know more about us because we do amazing things."

On Saturday, Nov. 7, BCC will host its 10th annual Hoedown for Hunger, a fundraising event open to the public offering food and drink, kids' activities, and live music. Proceeds will benefit BCC's Feed the Hungry Program.

BCC's programs include

Keep Them Warm

An operation that collects and distributes free camping and outdoor survival equipment to homeless people.

10th annual Hoedown for Hunger

Saturday, Nov. 7

Showers at BCC

Available for no charge Monday through Friday from 9 am to 10 am and 1 pm to 2 pm (reservations required).

Senior Lunch Program

Provides a full buffet meal for lunch

Monday through Friday.

Big Band Tuesdays

Featuring the big band Alley Cats,

from 10:30 am to noon.

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