Urban Appalachian Council closes office, lays off employees, merges some programs with other groups

'Powerhouse in the community'

CINCINNATI—Last fall, Shawna Johns kept an important promise she’d made to herself: to earn her Graduation Equivalency Diploma, or GED, before she turned 40.

It wasn’t easy. She was caring for her fiancée, who is battling Stage 3 lung cancer, and her 18-year-old daughter, who is struggling with medical problems of her own.

But with help from the staff of the Urban Appalachian Council (UAC), the Delhi native not only earned her GED, she landed a job with AmeriCorps and began tutoring other adult students at the Adult Education Center in East Price Hill.

But last month, she lost that job at the UAC as the 44-year-old nonprofit began to wind down its operations in Lower and East Price Hill.

“It’s very said,” said Johns, who got the chance to go back to school when the cleaning company she had worked for shut down and left her jobless. “The adults in Price Hill need this. UAC did a lot for the community.”

Though no official announcement has been made, UAC Board President Debbie Zorn confirmed that while the Urban Appalachian Council Corporation still exists, its two biggest programs have been transferred to other neighborhood nonprofit groups and all six full-time staff members were laid off. 

The nonprofit group's federal tax forms from 20082009 and 2011 show a steady revenue stream of around $1 million every year, but Zorn said finances were a major concern for the nonprofit's board.

“Our funding was shrinking,” Zorn said. “That was a reality we were working with. We considered mergers, we considered partnering with other agencies."

In the end, board members elected to partner with Santa Maria Community Services to absorb its AmeriCorps program, which offers modest pay for adults willing to work in service roles in nonprofits; and with the Lower Price Hill Community School to take over its Adult Basic Education work.

“We frankly think that these are very good fits for maintaining these services,” Zorn said.

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