Lake’s nonprofit service groups feel the crunch |

Lake’s nonprofit service groups feel the crunch

Nonprofit organizations at South Lake Tahoe have similar goals of helping the underprivileged and supporting the fatigued. Resources are usually strained and dollars are stretched.

The gradual loss of the middle class has its own impact on social services. Overall, organization directors report they haven’t noticed a spike in demand for services but have experienced difficulty in staffing.

Nichole Loftif, executive director of Tahoe Youth and Family Services, has noticed the effects of the exodus of South Shore’s middle class. Besides the three months it took her to buy a house that never went on the market, Loftif had trouble finding employees for her organization.

“I would say the biggest point is the cost of living has really made it difficult to recruit people,” said Loftif, the executive director for two years. “Typically we want people with a master’s degree, but social services is usually a low-paying job. The reason why I’m fully staffed is luck. Someone who worked here and moved away, moved back.”

Fewer residents mean fewer choices for foster homes, Loftif said. Those who do want to become foster parents have houses that are too small.

“I have one client,” Loftif said. “If we had a place to put her, we would.”

Loftif said.

Sierra Recovery Center, which helps people fight substance abuse problems, reported the amount of visitors has remained steady for the past years, with about 23 outpatients per month.

Christmas Cheer, a year-round nonprofit organization that provides food to low-income people in South Lake Tahoe, served more than 1,200 people in November. That was about 500 more people than they served in November 2001, said Wilma Thomas, director of the program.

Thomas didn’t attribute the increase to the loss of the middle class.

“This last week, we ran out of food every day,” Thomas said before Christmas. “There’s so many people signing up. This holiday season is the busiest so far. I just don’t know why. No snow, no work.”

Christmas Cheer started 25 years ago in the garage of Nat and Bonita Sinclair. Since then the program has grown and moved. Thomas said the building for Christmas Cheer at 2085 Eloise Ave. is too small but the program lacks funds to move.

Homes with single-parent families where the adult is busy working two jobs is typical for Valerie Finnigan, public health nurse for El Dorado County. Six months ago Finnigan had 45 visits per month. Now she estimates they run about 70 per month.

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