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Jobs cut at nonprofit as donations drop off

The sour economy is forcing another nonprofit on South Whidbey to make drastic cuts to its budget.

Saratoga Community Housing, an organization started in 1996 to provide affordable housing to low- and moderate-income families, has laid off its executive director and part-time bookkeeper. The last day for the two employees was June 30.

Debbie Torget, the president of the nonprofit’s board of directors, said the layoffs were due to “a scarcity of funding and a reduced level of philanthropic giving.”

“This decision is strictly a funding decision and in no way is a personnel decision,” Torget said.

Saratoga Community Housing will remain in its space at Bayview Corner, and board members will staff the office and keep it open.

“The organization is going to continue. It’s important work and the work must go on,” Torget said.

The nonprofit works with Habitat for Humanity and manages 18 properties used as affordable housing.

The paid staff was told six weeks ago about the pending reductions, which officials said was largely prompted by a reduction in local donations and cutbacks in state grant funding for land trusts. The organization has a budget of roughly $120,000, Torget said.

“I think people are just being a little bit more cautious about their capacity to give,” she said.

Sandra Stipe, the executive director of Saratoga Community Housing, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Torget praised Stipe, the group’s first and only director, as the enthusiastic driving force behind the organization.

“Her leadership has been engaging, infectious and highly effective,” Torget said.

Board members will take over the administrative functions of the organization, and will work to continue to acquire land for Habitat for Humanity families while also strengthening the nonprofit’s operational funding efforts.

“We view the personnel reduction as a temporary measure,” Torget said. “We certainly don’t intend for Saratoga to go on forever with no staff.”

Fundraising for Saratoga Community Housing’s affordable homeownership program will continue. The organization will hold its “Island Luau & Auction” benefit on Saturday, Aug. 27. For information on tickets, call 331-4248.

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