MDS cuts budget to reflect new realities, original visionby Mennonite Disaster Service
Reflecting shifts in disaster response needs, budget challenges and a renewed emphasis on the organization's original vision, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) announced Feb. 25 it is eliminating some staff positions as part of overall budget cuts.
Alfred Yoder, board of directors chair, of Rosedale, Ohio, and Kevin King, executive director, said the number of staff members is being reduced from 18 to 14. Four positions are being eliminated in the Lititz bi-national headquarters. The four staff positions in Manitoba and one in British Columbia continue. The position of one staff person in Manitoba is not being filled while she is on a one-year maternity leave.
MDS is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that responds to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States. The work includes clean up, repair and rebuilding homes.
King said MDS' work will continue, focusing on local and regional projects. Staff will enlist volunteers to help with office support functions when necessary, especially in the event of large disasters.
"Our $6-million response to Hurricane Katrina is wrapping up this year. There hasn't been a domestic disaster of this magnitude since. As disasters happen locally, there is less of a call for large projects. We will seek to empower the local units and regions to be part of the disaster response and long-term recovery focus. It's important to build local MDS capacity."
He said volunteer opportunities will continue despite staff and budget cuts. These include summer youth projects, partnership home programs, the RV program, traditional response project sites and MDS' collaboration with Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Man., and Hesston (Kan.) College in disaster management studies.
"Volunteer numbers are as strong as ever. We have about 10,000 volunteers in our records; last year, we totaled 26,000 volunteer days in more than 23 project locations," said King.
To reduce budget, the organization also is cutting back on expenses in the field. King said MDS will engage local partners to share some on-site disaster response project costs, reflecting a traditional pattern for MDS work, where the local community provides the support and MDS provides the volunteers.
MDS will also increase efforts to invite churches and other donors to give. Eleven Anabaptist denominations and conferences, representing about 4,000 congregations in Canada and the United States, are represented on the MDS boards of directors and delegates.
Like colleague agencies, recent general giving to MDS has decreased due to the economic downturn. King is grateful for those who continue to give. Last fall, MDS moved into a new facility and its capital campaign reached its goal on schedule. "The new building is only a small factor in the budget challenges," King said.
King says he is optimistic for MDS' future, and also feels deeply for the people affected by the job-cutting decisions. "Each person’s contribution to MDS has been important."
King quoted John Diller, an early 1950s MDS volunteer. "John said the best thing MDS can do is make the path straight and level for the volunteer to get out to the project. MDS will continue to connect the pew to the project."
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