Alyce Morris Winston launched the Jeffrey Foundation in 1972 when she couldn’t find childcare for her son, Jeffrey, who had muscular dystrophy and mental disability. What began as an informal support group for parents in similar circumstances grew into a nonprofit organization providing educational services, childcare and counseling to children and families throughout Los Angeles County. Special needs children ranging from infancy to young adult rely on the foundation for educational, creative and recreational activities that foster their academic, social and behavioral development. Clients suffer from conditions such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and autism; 95 percent come from low-income and poverty level families.
The 2008 recession hit Southern California hard, and The Jeffrey Foundation suffered as a result. The government agencies that funded the foundation’s services slashed their budgets and cut payment rates for each hour of services the children received. As a result, the foundation’s income fell short of its expenses. “This went on for four or five years. It just wore away at us,” says Winston. The foundation couldn’t find other funding to make up the shortfall.
In 2012, The Jeffrey Foundation pursued a merger with another nonprofit organization, but the deal fell through at the last minute, leaving the foundation burdened with substantial expenses from the merger attempt. As a result, Winston turned to the business experts at the Small Business Development Center hosted by Pacific Coast Regional Corporation (PCR).
SBDC Business Advisors helped The Jeffrey Foundation apply for and obtain a line of credit from PCR.
Credit Where Credit is Due
“The economic situation had reduced our income to the point where we couldn’t get a loan from [our] bank,” Winston recalls. She had previously worked with the SBDC to get a grant for remodeling the Jeffrey Foundation’s facility, nearly 20 years prior, and returned to the SBDC again at her banker’s suggestion.
The SBDC recommended a line of credit to restructure debt and provide working capital for future growth. Thus, The Jeffrey Foundation received a line of credit from PCR and paid its merger-related debts.
A Bridge to Success
The line of credit not only enabled the foundation to pay off its debts, but also impressed a major donor. In 2014, The Jeffrey Foundation received a grant of more than $1.2 million from the Margie and Robert E. Petersen Foundation to pay off its mortgages. “When [the Petersen Foundation] heard about the line of credit, that was a positive thing,” Winston says. “They were long-term supporters, but had never given us this big an amount. Had we not been able to get that bridge–that line of credit–I don’t think we would have been around to get that $1.2 million!”
Since Winston began working with the SBDC in 2012, The Jeffrey Foundation’s clientele has increased by forty percent. The Jeffrey Foundation recently launched a new infant development program that Winston hopes to expand by partnering with other local agencies. The Foundation’s board of directors is also discussing updating computers, revamping their website, and other growth opportunities.
Winston says the confidence the SBDC had in The Jeffrey Foundation transferred to its staff. “Knowing that we were doing good work and [the SBDC] really wanted to help us . . . helped build confidence and morale,” she says. “Now I can move forward and request other money [from donors] because we have a good, solid foundation.”
“Don’t give up. We didn’t! Now we’re going to be in the community for many years to come, and we owe it all to Pacific Coast Regional.”-Alyce Morris Winston, Executive Director/Founder, The Jeffrey Foundation