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IMACA facing change and challenges

October 17, 2011

Daniel Steinhagen

From food banks to housing assistance to weatherizing homes for energy-efficiency to help with paying the bills for low-income residents, the Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action, Inc. helps whomever they can, however they can.
IMACA also provides residents in need with holiday food baskets and runs the popular Wish Tree program at Christmas that provides local low income kids with gifts to open on Dec. 25.
The man at the helm of the agency for the past 18 years, Executive Director Daniel Steinhagen, is in the process of retiring and a nationwide search is being conducted for his replacement.
Established in 1980 with a budget of just $16,000 and three staff members, IMACA was designated a Community Action Agency by the state in 1981. IMACA is now a full service agency with a budget of approximately $3.5 million, three offices, two low-income apartment complexes, six Head Start/State Preschool centers, a paid staff of more than 60, plus interns and volunteers.
Community Action Agencies were formed post-Martin Luther King, Jr. and his March for Jobs and Freedom march in Washington, D.C. and his “I have a dream speech.”
And, IMACA continues to grow. It was recently awarded a contract with the Clean Air Projects Program, funded through the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, to implement a Home Heating Emissions Reduction program. This means IMACA will be replacing home wood stoves not in compliance with the Environment Protection Agency with new EPA-compliant heating devices of the owner or occupant’s choice.
“This program expands our current weatherization program for many community members throughout Inyo, Mono and Alpine counties,” IMACA said in a press release.
Jill Paydon,
Administration Services manager at IMACA, said the agency is looking at more collaborative efforts, such as the one with Great Basin, in anticipation of federal and state funding continuing to shrink in this global and national financial recession.
Paydon explained that the goal of IMACA, since its inception, was to investigate, identify and try and meet those unmet needs in a rural community. She explained that these Community Action Committees were formed nationally to address those in rural or low-income areas with basic level needs, such as proper nutrition, which leads to better workers and possible advancement out of a circle or even a line of poverty.
Another added service brings food to those in remote corners of Mono County. It is the Mono County Mobile Food Pantry, run in cooperation with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. The complete schedule for food distribution can be found on the IMACA website at www.imaca.net.
And, IMACA has also launched the Community Garden Programs in Bishop, Darwin, Independence and Lone Pine. IMACA said the gardens “have had a very successful year supplying fresh produce for the individuals and families in need with thanks to the many community partners with whom IMACA is privileged to work.”
That’s not to say the agency has not been without its difficulties. In 2011, the U.S. Congress debated cutting the Community Services Block Grant program “which provides support funds for services that help low-income residents of both Inyo and Mono counties,” IMACA said in a press release.
Paydon explained that a federal mandate for Community Action Agencies guaranteed money to agencies like IMACA but these amounts of funding are on the table as the feds and state officials try and balance budgets that are billions and trillions of dollars overdrawn.
CBGs were spared the axe, but there is still the ongoing uncertainty with funding and “constantly changing circumstances” from federal and state budgets.
“IMACA has been stable through this constantly adjusting economic climate with a strong management team,” IMACA said.
The agency hopes to find a new executive director, but the search has not been easy. Paydon said Steinhagen is a “fountain of knowledge” of how these action committees and the intricacies of local politics work and the agency is hoping to fill the position with as good an organizer and community advocate.
“The most recent development in the search for a new executive director is that after extensive reviews, interviews and discussion by the IMACA Personnel Committee (comprised of three board members and three staff members), the agency offered the position to an individual who initially accepted the offer of employment but subsequently declined,” IMACA said in the press release. Steinhagen has agreed to stay on until a replacement is recruited.
For more information, call IMACA at (760) 873-8557.

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