Six months into his position as the first-ever paid executive director at Philomath Community Services, 28-year-old Mark McGuire has zeroed in on the organization’s stated goal — people helping people.
The early months for McGuire — he actually was hired in November and volunteered in December during the holiday season before his official start date in January — have been focused on refining policies and procedures “to such that if we have established mechanisms in place that guarantee accountability and formality for important decisions, then when the term limits are up for our board members and people move on and new people come in, we have the framework established so that the organization can make really effective and good decisions regardless of who’s in place on the board.”
The PCS board and its director also have an eye on the future and where the organization is headed.
“That long-term vision is one of the themes of this year that I see developing,” McGuire said. “Part of that is going back and refining a strategic plan. We are going to do some training here as a board and try to put together a five-, 10-, 20-year plan and be able to use that in leveraging our requests for grants and we can use that for planning purposes.”
Jean Goul, who took over as board president in January, said consistency is a key component of those policies and procedures because of the transient nature of some of the volunteers.
“The programs, some have still not established a really good operations manual which actually shows what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Goul added.
Philomath Community Services, a nonprofit organization founded in 1991, provides support, services and opportunities to help meet the basic needs of families in the community and western Benton County. McGuire said from his relatively new perspective, he sees the organization as “a group that facilitates or empowers people to help other people engage in their community in constructive ways.”
He would like people to not think of PCS as simply providing hand-outs but “more of a constructive, healthy community that we’re fostering here in Philomath.”
Why after nearly three decades would PCS feel the need to bring in a paid director?
“We’ve had some growing pains and also our existing president of the board, Van Hunsaker, was phasing out because we have a term limit of six years,” Goul said. “We realized there was a lot to do and we wanted some continuity first of all in our programs and continuity in having someone who was stable and was paid.”
McGuire, who is a Philomath native and graduated from the local high school with the Class of 2009, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering — both at Oregon State University.
One thing that McGuire would like to implement would be some sort of program that brings in a little income. To illustrate, he mentioned nonprofits such as the Philomath Youth Activities Club, which has a fee system for its athletic programs, and Habitat for Humanity, which has the ReStore.”
“One of the goals that I’d like to see in our strategic plan is we develop some sort of funding stream independent of grants and donations that we can internally optimize and bring in funds through some sort of ongoing fundraiser, store or system that involves the community and makes money for the nonprofit,” McGuire said.
Besides those visions for the future along with the policy and procedure reviews, PCS also wants to simply spread the word about what its organization is all about. This time of the year, Lupe’s Community Garden is buzzing with activity, although more folks are invited to participate.
“One of the cool things about the garden is it’s small and a little bit undiscovered at this point,” McGuire said. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of potential. But that means folks that come out really have the ability to take ownership of a little plot — even though we’re not dividing it up with individual plots, if someone wants to come out and plant some potatoes, for example.”
In other words, participants at the community garden will find a lot of flexibility, an approach that McGuire said is unique compared to others, with no rigid structure. Volunteers kicked off the growing season in April by spreading compost, moving concrete and guiding raspberry plants.
Lupe’s Community Garden — named in memory of longtime volunteer Lupe Maginnis — now has open hours for people who would like to stop by, a move that McGuire hopes will increase participation. Denise Guinn serves as the garden’s program manager. Work parties are planned for this summer.
“Lupe’s Community Garden will be featured in an August bicycle tour that’s being co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition,” McGuire said, referring to an Aug. 3 event, “and a nonprofit called Bountiful Backyard will be bringing through a bunch of folks on bikes and our garden manager will show them what’s going on.”
Also in August, Peace Lutheran Church will host a bluegrass concert with the group, “Blackberry Jam,” with proceeds going to PCS. That event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Aug. 8.
As far as the volunteers, McGuire said the numbers are good but the organization is beginning an effort to bring in more, including those who would be interested in serving on the board. Goul said the board would like to have seven members and currently it’s at six.
According to Philomath Community Service’s 2018 annual report to the board, the organization served 1,834 unique individuals in 1,134 families in one or more of its programs. That includes 1,049 adults and 785 children. Out of those families, 70 percent had Philomath addresses.
• The food bank served 1,024 individuals.
• The Gleaners served 367 households with 239 adults and 125 children. Adoptee households numbered 59.
• Holiday Cheer served 85 adults and 126 children.
• June’s Kids Kloset served 663 individuals averaging 55 children per month.
• Lupe’s Community Garden grew and donated 700 pounds of fruit and
vegetables to the food bank.
PCS received $38,674 in grants in 2018, including $8,000 from Starker Forests (racks, carts, operations), $6,000 from Benton Community Foundation (facilities), $5,600 from the city of Philomath (utilities) and $5,000 from the Bessemer Trust (website, video).
Over the past year, PCS reached several goals, including the executive director hiring and the purchase of a multi-functional vehicle — a van that will make an appearance in the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo Grand Parade.