“It’s too late now. I had to pull the plug,” said Nestor R. Nuesch, a consultant for the Salvation Army who has been trying to find a way to bring the non-profit agency into Poinciana, a community of more than 84,000 residents that now lacks any social service agencies whatsoever.
Poinciana is split between Osceola and Polk counties, and currently Poinciana residents on the Osceola County side have to drive to Kissimmee to get access to social service agencies. For Polk County residents, they have to make the drive to Winter Haven.
Nuesch said he had hoped to be able to get the Salvation Army into Poinciana this fall, in the former Federal Credit Union building at 911 Cypress Parkway.
“It’s a stand alone building,” he said.
The problem was the Salvation Army is a non-profit and could not afford to pay rent, and Nuesch said an agreement could not be worked out to provide the agency with free or reduced rent. But he added that he’s not giving up.
“Let’s put it in a positive form,” he said. “The situation is we were trying to secure a place, and we were having discussions regarding one of the buildings in the town center, and unfortunately we did not reach an agreement on when they would be able to donate the space for three months or at a very reduced lease, where we could conduct the programs and do the kettle (fund-raising) effort.
“So what I have had to do is make a tough decision, to delay the start of the operations, in essence until we conclude a community study that I think we have to do,” he added. “It will look at all of Osceola County and Poinciana in Polk County. I’m going to put all my energies and my efforts into conducting that study.”
The fact that this project had to be postponed is disappointing, said Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, which is working to bring more jobs and economic development to the community and has been supporting the Salvation Army efforts.
But Murdock stressed that this doesn’t kill the efforts to bring a Salvation Army to Poinciana, it only delays it — and it give supporters more time to line up all their ducks in a row.
“I think the bad news is really good news here,” Murdock said. “The bad news — or disappointing news, if you will — is we’re not going to be able to run the Christmas program this year. But I think we’ll be able to springboard it after the first of the year. I think by this time next year, we’re going to end up being ahead of where we thought we’d be.”
After the holidays are over, Murdock said, he expects all parties involved in this project to start working together to make it happen. And over the next few months, he said, he and Nuesch can complete the community study to demonstrate the need is genuine within Poinciana for a Salvation Army office, and that local residents want this popular non-profit program in their community.
As a result, “We’ll have better facilities, a better group of people working with us, a better long term plan, and a better opportunity to have more services,” Murdock said. “We can end up being able to offer more community services then, rather than this being a small project right now.”
Nuesch said part of his ongoing study would be to “see what the community support would be” for bringing a Salvation Army into Poinciana. He thinks that support will be very strong.
“Once we do that, I think we’ll have a better understanding of what we should do, and which programs are the most needed,” he said. “I think there are three or four aspects to this planning study. One is the demographics — we have to see where the growth has taken place in Osceola County and in Poinciana on the Polk County side. Then we have to see what are the services being provided by other agencies.”
He also hopes this study demonstrates that “The Salvation Army has the record of effectiveness that would be needed and welcomed in the community,” and lastly, to show that financial support could be raised within Poinciana to assist the Salvation Army in getting set up here.
“We have to show the resources we would be able to gather in the community,” he said. “The Salvation Army works from the resources in the community. The citizens and residents must support what the Salvation Army does.”
Nuesch believes that this study, which he expects to take three months to complete, will clearly demonstrate that there exists very strong support among residents and business owners alike for this project. In the meantime, he now believes it was unrealistic to expect to get this agency into the community so quickly.
“You have to remember, it was already very ambitious what I was trying to do, to start preparations now and do all the recruitment and volunteer work and provide services this year,” he said. “We’ve run out of time. It’s not the best news, but we think we can do better, only I need to have the data to show the Salvation Army that it can be done. I’m going to be interviewing and doing a survey of as many people as I can, of different organizations and the government, and individuals, and see where it leads.”
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