EDITORIAL: Hopefully, HAVEN’s best days are yet to come

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

For untold numbers of families in crisis, HAVEN in Lee County has been a shelter, a safety net — even a lifesaver.

Victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse have counted on the nonprofit, which has operated in Sanford since the 1980s, for help in escaping home lives that were untenable.

Lately, however, HAVEN has been the one in need of help.

Overcome by financial hardships and managerial shortcomings, HAVEN suspended operations in August. Former Executive Director Susan King has returned to the helm temporarily, working with community leaders to chart HAVEN’s future.

The largest immediate obstacle was the need for more than $6,000 — just to avoid foreclosure on the agency’s Bracken Street headquarters.

While the Sanford City Council did not step in with financial support, an 11th-hour donation from the Civitan Club bought HAVEN some time and kept its doors open.

The Civitans’ generosity is commendable, and the council’s reluctance to intervene is understandable. As important as HAVEN’s work is on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens, city leaders were put in a difficult position. Their two options were equally unappealing — shore up an entity that had failed with public funds, or refuse aid to a widely acknowledged community asset. 

The organization is in the process of rebuilding — which involves cleaning up its books and putting more oversight in place. Hopefully, these safeguards will allay any apprehension officials or others have about giving in the future.

Even with the most imminent threat avoided, HAVEN faces a steep climb in its efforts to reorganize. Going forward, the nonprofit must raise enough to stay viable, put competent leaders in charge, foster morale among volunteers and inspire confidence within the community — both among potential donors and victims needing its services.

Despite its recent circumstances, and the questions surrounding them, HAVEN still enjoys strong support within Sanford and Lee County — as evidenced by the groups and individuals that have come to its rescue in recent weeks. But for the nonprofit to survive, let alone thrive, it will need to undergo a total transformation.

This much-needed wake-up call could be the first step in that process.