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Propping up LOFT 

Area teen shelter isn't going anywhere

Pat Gundy, operations manager at Living Options for Teens, wants people to know that at LOFT, the show is going on.

This is big news considering the governmental screw-up that cost LOFT $200,000, or 75 percent of their annual budget. Gundy has been working double overtime, he says, to raise funds for the westside teen shelter—the only one in the region—and, thanks to private donations and high-powered help, it looks like his efforts are paying off.

"It is not closing—I feel confident we'll be able to keep it going."

According to Gundy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a federal entity that had provided the grant for the last 10 years, failed to download a crucial piece of the teen shelter's budget—a piece that Gundy had submitted along with his original grant application. Because of the download glitch, though, the shelter's budget appeared not to fit within the required parameters and LOFT was not awarded the $200,000 grant.

Gundy was incredulous.

"Let me get this straight: We're out $200,000?" said Gundy, relaying a conversation he had with a federal Health and Human Services administrator.

The reply Gundy said he received went something like this: Yeah, sorry. We messed up. Our bad. But yeah, you're out $200,000.

"I had to get them to repeat that about five times," said Gundy.

Since learning that disastrous news late last year, LOFT, operated by J Bar J Youth Services, has raised nearly $50,000 through donations. According to Gundy, the teen shelter also benefited from the Source's online auction in December, which raised $4,064 for LOFT.

Gundy has even looked to our elected officials for help.

Sen. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore., and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., are on the case. The three men worked together to draft an official letter of inquiry that, on Dec. 10, was sent to Health and Human Services. The goal: to ensure that this glitch was an anomaly and will not affect future support for LOFT.

"There's no reason to think we can't get that funding back in 2014," Gundy said.

Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director office of public affairs at HHS verified that LOFT is on track for next year.

"They are in good standing to receive a 2014 grant," he said.

In the meantime, though, times have been tough for the teen shelter.

To make up for the shortfall, Gundy has been soliciting private donations and furiously writing grant proposals. And while he's hopeful that the money will come through, there's a lag in the funding timeline. Even when LOFT is awarded grants, it often doesn't get the money right away.

"So there's a little bit of pressure to make it happen," Gundy said.

One significant local donor is Jeannette McKenzie, vice president at Morgan Stanley in Bend. In fact, both McKenzie and her employer gave significant contributions to LOFT. The local financial advisers also helped stuff stockings for the teens at Christmas.

"They're a pretty amazing group of people," said J Bar J Development and Communications Manager Amanda Gow.

For Jared Lugo, a youth who's living at LOFT, such generosity is greatly appreciated. And it's helped him get back on his feet.

"I've got a warm bed at night and a lot of love that comes through this program," Lugo said. "Within a week they helped me get an ID, birth certificate and Social Security card."

Now Lugo has a job and is saving up in hopes of returning to college. Lugo is also a musician (Zia FryBear) and is opening for Mosley Wotta on Wednesday at the LOFT Benefit Concert at the Old Stone.

To help youth like Lugo, Gundy said he's also hopeful the Portland nonprofit Meyer Memorial Trust will award a grant to the teen shelter. The operations manager said he should know something by March.

In the meantime, though, Gundy will continue to find funding wherever he can.

"We're serving teens and we plan to keep doing that," Gundy said. SW

LOFT Benefit Concert with Mosley Wotta

also featuring Trees and Color with Grit and Grizzle

7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16.

The Old Stone, 157 NW Franklin Ave.

$10, all proceeds to benefit LOFT


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