After a decade of cooperation in grass-roots health and social service advocacy, Midvale city and the nonprofit organization Comunidades Unidas (United Communities) are parting ways.
Mauricio Agramont, Midvale's community developer, says the city will be reviving its Neighbor to Neighbor program to continue reaching out to low-income residents. Ten years ago, the city program's model led to the creation of Comunidades Unidas, he said.
"They've been expanding for a while," Agramont said. "We are a tiny city with a great heart and a lot of need. We are going to try to make the transition as smooth as possible."
Meanwhile, Comunidades Unidas is moving from its office at a city-owned building in downtown Midvale. A sign taped to the door there said the organization would be closed from March 10-14.
Leo Gonzales, board chairman, said Comunidades Unidas is searching for a location that will allow it to continue focusing on grass-roots outreach and look at statewide policy change, particularly health care.
"We just want to make sure we will choose a place that is still accessible to the community we serve," Gonzales said.
The organization is also embroiled in a leadership dispute, with volunteers accusing the nonprofit's board members and executive director Sabrina Morales of mismanagement of funds, conflicts of interest and unethical conduct. The volunteers question the firing of the agency's grant administrator, Claudia Gonzales, and want Morales to resign.
Morales declined to comment. In a statement, board members say Gonzales was terminated for cause and defend Morales, saying there was "solid ground" to disregard calls for her termination.
A few of the organization's 100 or so volunteers expressed concerns Wednesday about some health grants they say have not been renewed, particularly an HIV/AIDS prevention grant.
"We used to educate the community, but no more," said Alicia Garcia of Midvale, a 10-year volunteer who does medical interpretation. "They are telling us there is no grant. We need answers."
This year, the HIV/AIDs grant was the only unrenewed grant found in a search by the Utah Department of Health, said spokeswoman Cyndi Beemis. That grant for $44,500 went to other agencies because Comunidades Unidas' proposal hadn't addressed the at-risk community that the review committee wanted.
The nature of nonprofit grants is a competitive one, Gonzales said, and sometimes the money just isn't available.
Gonzales expressed hope the volunteers would continue working for the organization."Most of the work we do is done around voluntarism," he said. "We want to continue to have our doors open to everyone."
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