April 08, 2020
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Beleaguered midcoast social service agency plans to file for bankruptcy, can’t pay staff

Abigail Curtis | BDN
Abigail Curtis | BDN
Broadreach Family & Community Services, seen here, is a Belfast-based agency that was founded 35 years ago, last week announced its imminent closure.

The executive director of the soon-to-be-shuttered Broadreach Family & Community Services sent a memo to all his staff Wednesday saying that the agency plans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and cannot issue them their last paychecks, which they would normally receive Friday.

“I recognize the hardship this presents and genuinely wish there was a way to avoid this,” Todd Goodwin wrote in the memo. “As hard as it may be to believe, a bankruptcy filing actually better positions the agency to meet its full payroll obligations to each of you. However, it will take a bit of time.”

Earlier this week, he said that the Belfast-based nonprofit agency employed nearly 80 social workers, case managers, teachers, trainers and other staff members who worked in Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties. He and other Broadreach officials announced last week that after 35 years, the agency would close, a move that caught many in the community off guard.

Goodwin said that the decision came about because of the accumulation of many factors, saying that Broadreach tried to overcome its financial challenges but ran out of time. The agency has a $3 million operating budget.

According to the memo, which was given to the BDN by an employee who asked to remain anonymous and which was confirmed Thursday by Goodwin, staff members who are owed wages will be identified as claimants during the bankruptcy process. Staff members are paid every two weeks, the employee said.

“Your payroll wages have priority status through the bankruptcy proceeding,” Goodwin wrote in the memo. “On behalf of our Board of Directors, I would like to extend sincere acknowledgment of the challenge this will likely present to many of you. Please know that the decision for bankruptcy filing is driven in significant part by our goal to make each of you whole in the most orderly fashion possible.”

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing provides for the liquidation of assets, according to a government website on bankruptcy basics. The debtor will need to sell its non-exempt property and distribute the proceeds to creditors.

But even as the drumbeat of grim financial news continued this week for Broadreach, there was a hopeful sign for one of its programs that serves Knox County children and teens. The Rockland-based Youthlinks will continue to offer after-school programming for students after it was able to find a last-minute fiscal sponsor to administer one of its grants. That sponsor is Regional School Unit 13, and Youthlinks staff moved Wednesday into some vacant classrooms in one wing of the South School in Rockland.

John McDonald, superintendent of RSU 13, said that the district will not take over the entire program, but rather the after-school programs that Youthlinks offers at Oceanside High School in Rockland, Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston and South School.

“We’ll be the fiscal agent for the grant. We’ll hire all the staff that’s been working in the after-school program, and the Youthlinks director,” McDonald said, adding that the program has been great for the district and it would have been a shame for it to cease operations. “I, for one, am a very big supporter of Youthlinks. We’re doing what we can to help them in this transition.”

Youthlinks has been operating in those schools because it won a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant through the U.S. Department of Education. It’s a five-year grant and the program in Rockland is coming to the end of the first year. The grant pays $299,000 per year, according to Youthlinks Director Sarah Rogers, who said that the program must serve a total of 120 students per day.

A second grant worth $199,000 per year is funded through Temporary Aid to Needy Families, she said, and serves students at Oceanside Middle School, Oceanside High School and Thomaston Grammar School. Rogers said that she is confident she has found a local nonprofit to be the fiscal sponsor of that grant, although she is not ready to release its name.

“I want to assure all families that Youthlinks and the after-school programming are continuing services,” she said. “Our programs will continue.”

She said that the organization has moved out of its longtime home, complete with gardens and greenhouses, at 420 Broadway in Rockland for its new home in the school on Holmes Street in Rockland. Although the last few weeks and months of financial uncertainty with Broadreach and the ongoing transition have posed challenges for the program’s staff, she is just glad that the Youthlinks programs will continue.

“It has a 30-year history, and many of those original members who started it had a passion of getting kids engaged through service learning,” she said. “It’s a wonderful, beautiful thing and more of that’s needed in the world. We don’t want that to go away in our community.”

McDonald said that the school district is glad to do its part to help keep Youthlinks here.

“We’re all trying to figure this out together, as communities do. I think that’s one of the great things about public schools — we figure out ways to make things work,” he said. “It’s not a cut-and-dried situation. It’s a fluid situation. I think it’ll be a bit before things settle back down again. But our after-school program will go forward.”

 


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