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Published: Saturday, 11/18/2006

United Health Services to close, auction rights to its 2 food events

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
United Health Services will auction its popular Rib-Off, above, and Taste of the Town events. United Health Services will auction its popular Rib-Off, above, and Taste of the Town events.
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After 36 years of working to help nonprofit organizations in the community, United Health Services, Inc., announced yesterday that it will be shutting its doors Nov. 30 and auctioning off its trademark rights to two popular northwest Ohio food events.

United Health Services, which has sponsored the Taste of the Town and the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off events since their inception as a main source of its funding, announced that it will close due to "financial constraints."

Created in 1970, United Health Services is a nonprofit organization that provides professional administrative support for social services agencies. Housed at 214 South Superior St., the organization provides administrative staff, office space, and overhead expenses for other nonprofit organizations.

But only two independent organizations - Family Information Network and Parents Helping Parents - have remained under the United Health Services umbrella. Both organizations will move their offices to the United Way building, said Bill Kitson, president and chief executive officer of United Way.

Lyn Doll, executive director of United Health Services, said the organizations will not experience a break in services.

United Health will sell its rights to the food events at auction at noon Jan. 10.

"We will be selling our assets, and the two biggest assets we have are the Taste of the Town and the Rib-Off," United Health board member Nic Thakur said yesterday. "This is a unique opportunity to take two of the town's signature events and pick them up."

The trademark rights for the events, and the reputations they have established, will be sold to the highest bidder, said Brent Wilson, of Wilson Auction & Realty Co.

Mr. Wilson said that the events are "intellectual assets" that are owned by United Health Services and are trademarked.

The Taste of the Town was created 10 years ago and brought restaurants from across the community downtown to sell samples of food. The Rib-Off began 23 years ago and had moved this year to the Lucas County Recreation Center, where organizers said it had experienced its most success to date.

"They will be put up individually and can be purchased individually or together," he said. "It's absolute. Whatever the price is at the end of the day is what it will be sold for."

United Health Services staff said that the organization's annual budget was about $750,000, but they refused to reveal how much the organization is currently in deficit. Mr. Thakur explained that they are still crunching the numbers.

In October, 2005, United Health surprised some city officials when it announced its Northwest Ohio Rib-Off was leaving downtown Toledo for a larger space at the county Recreation Center. While this year's event in Maumee was the one of the most well-attended to date, higher-than-expected costs for entertainment - which included classic rockers Grand Funk Railroad and country star Jo Dee Messina - meant that the festival ended in the red, Mr. Thakur said.

"We operate on a real tight budget. One big hiccup and it throws us off," he said. "We have debt to pay. We're hoping to get enough [from the auction] to pay off our creditors."

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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