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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2001

Family agency keeps helping despite woes with funding

BY KATE MORAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Crystal Purifie Taylor, left, a case manager at Roosevelt Revitalization and Development Corp., tries to get assistance for a community resident who said she is having car trouble. Crystal Purifie Taylor, left, a case manager at Roosevelt Revitalization and Development Corp., tries to get assistance for a community resident who said she is having car trouble.
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When Rosa Turnbough gets excited, she talks faster than most pitchers can throw a baseball. She laughs often and will interrupt herself and break into a chant if she comes up with a particularly vivid phrase.

For just over a year, Ms. Turnbough has served as the executive director of the Roosevelt Revitalization and Development Corp., a community development corporation on North Detroit Avenue off Dorr Street.

It is her energy that fuels the operation when money cannot.

Roosevelt recently had to cinch its belt tighter when Lucas County Jobs and Family Services did not renew a $375,000 grant it had awarded to Roosevelt's Work Over Welfare program last July.

The agency had said that the grant was for one year only, but Ms. Turnbough and her staff are incensed because other groups are continuing to receive funds.

According to George Steger, director of Lucas County Jobs and Family Services, his agency financed 33 organizations last year but could continue with only eight after $11 million of federal funds were cut.

“I certainly empathize with the people at Roosevelt,” Mr. Steger said.

“We were not trying to make a negative judgement on them,” he said. “The eight that we saved are not receiving [funding] at the same level as in the past.”

But Roosevelt staff members contend that Jobs and Family Services conferred funds arbitrarily and without conducting a substantial review of its dependent organizations.

“Prior to any request [from Jobs and Family Services], we submitted a very thorough proposal about what we thought we had accomplished, which was above and beyond what we had expected to do,” Ms. Turnbough said. “We never even received a response.”

Several case managers at Roosevelt said no one from the government agency came to observe Roosevelt's headquarters on North Detroit, which buzz with the in-and-out traffic of Private Industry Council workers, teenagers who are paid to cut grass, assist the elderly, and help with community beautification projects.

Mr. Steger said his agency did not have the funds to evaluate the different programs in person and had to base its decision on financial records.

“We looked at things like how quickly they were using the money and how cost effective they were,” he said.

But Ms. Turnbough and her staff suspect Roosevelt suffered primarily from a lack of clout. She said her year-old Work Over Welfare program was denied in favor of more established names.

Hugh Grefe, senior program director of Toledo Local Initiatives Support Corp., which provides some funding to Roosevelt, said toddler programs like Work over Welfare are often overshadowed by their elder counterparts.

“If you're trying to start something new, you don't have a lot of relationships in place, and you have an uphill fight to prove you're a good bet,” he said. “We should give Roosevelt recognition for being creative and plucky. Eventually they will keep building their track record.”

Ms. Turnbough touts Roosevelt as an innovator among community development corporations in the city.

Like other CDCs, Roosevelt refurbishes houses in ailing neighborhoods - what Ms. Turnbough calls “bricks and mortar” projects.

But it also offers a full range of counseling, job training, and computer and life skills programs.

“We deal with perception,” said RoDerick Raimey, a case manager at Roosevelt. “We help people take a complete look at themselves and locate the resources they need to accomplish their goals.”

Ms. Turnbough engineered Work Over Welfare based on her experience at the Lucas County Department of Human Services, where two of her case workers were also previously employed.

Last year, the program assisted more than 250 people - about 200 more than the Roosevelt staff initially hoped.

Ms. Turnbough remains undaunted by the funding cuts. “It's going to take more than one monkey to stop this circus,” she said.



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