A leading Deltona social-service agency has shut down.
Whether Community Life Center’s closing is temporary or permanent is not yet known.
The Community Life Center formally notified city officials that it is no longer rendering assistance to Deltona’s downtrodden.
“We have a big gaping hole in social services,” Deltona Strong leader Dana McCool said.
McCool said her civic-activist group has fielded calls from Deltonans in distress, including the homeless and those on the brink of homelessness. Often, Community Life Center was able to help, but not now.
McCool was not the only one taken aback by the closing.
“I was shocked about it,” Mayor Heidi Herzberg told The Beacon. “It’s unfortunate, but maybe something can be worked out.”
For several years, Community Life Center has operated a pantry and offered food assistance to people in need, including hot meals once a month.
The charity also handled the occasional distribution of food provided by Second Harvest. More recently, the organization additionally offered financial assistance to Deltonans who could not afford to pay their water and sewage bills.
The Deltona City Commission has supported the CLC with funding from its federal Community Development Block Grant, and the city provided working space for the organization in what is now the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office’s substation at 1691 Providence Blvd.
Since it moved out of that address in 2012, the CLC has operated in Pine Ridge Fellowship (formerly Deltona United Methodist Church) at 1045 E. Normandy Blvd.
Word of the Community Life Center’s closing came Nov. 13 during a meeting on how to ease Deltona’s homeless problem.
“Nov. 5 was the last day,” said Eric Raimundo, chairman of the CLC’s board of directors. “I wanted to be there. I was out of town and couldn’t be there. I wanted to thank the volunteers.”
Exactly what happened is not clear. City leaders of all stripes say they want the charity to reorganize and reopen.
For now at least, the charity and the church are suspending their cooperative relationship, as confirmed in a letter from Raimundo.
“Due to an impasse the Community Life Center (CLC) Board is having with Pine Ridge Fellowship Church, the Board of the CLC has agreed to dissolve and begin the process of closing down its operations,” reads Raimundo’s undated letter addressed to Deltona Development Services Director Ron Paradise. “At this time, the CLC can no longer effectively manage the distribution of funds from the CDBG awarded to the CLC.”
Contacted by The Beacon, Raimundo said the church and the CLC “were going in different directions.”
He expressed hope that help can continue.
“Community Life will probably come back,” Raimundo said. “I think CLC will reopen as a pantry.”
Pine Ridge Fellowship Pastor Michael Wycuff said he wants to find out more about how the CLC was managing its money.
“I want to take a look at their books. We want to continue the outreach,” he said. “When somebody says they’re closing, that’s new to me.”
The pastor added, “We want to see the people of Deltona get what the people of Deltona deserve. Hopefully, after the first of the year, we can get something going.”
While it operates within the church’s building and organizational structure, Wycuff described the CLC as “semi-independent.”
It is an outreach ministry of Pine Ridge Fellowship but is free to accept donations as a separate tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
The CLC operated with an annual budget of approximately $50,000, according to Deltona Vice Mayor Victor Ramos, who also serves on the organization’s board of directors.
Much of that, Ramos said, was in-kind donations rather than cash.
The Deltona City Commission earlier this year allocated $15,000 of its CDBG funds for the CLC, but the group had not yet received or spent any of the grant.
The funds earmarked for the CLC could be given to another organization or activity that benefits low- and moderate-income people, Paradise said.
“We’ll reallocate it some way,” he said.