2006.09.10: September 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Belize: NGO's: Hunger: North Lake Tahoe Bonanza: When Belize RPCV George LeBard became Project MANA's third executive director in 1988, the organization needed to consolidate its gains

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Belize: Peace Corps Belize : The Peace Corps in Belize: 2006.09.10: September 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Belize: NGO's: Hunger: North Lake Tahoe Bonanza: When Belize RPCV George LeBard became Project MANA's third executive director in 1988, the organization needed to consolidate its gains

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When Belize RPCV George LeBard became Project MANA's third executive director in 1988, the organization needed to consolidate its gains

When Belize RPCV George LeBard became Project MANA's third executive director in 1988, the organization needed to consolidate its gains

Soon after LeBard's arrival, MANA had established programs targeting middle and high school students as well as Hispanics about nutrition and how to eat a more balanced diet, trying to direct people away from the impression that if it's available, it's healthy.

When Belize RPCV George LeBard became Project MANA's third executive director in 1988, the organization needed to consolidate its gains

Project MANA aims to alter perceptions

Tom Meyer
September 10, 2006

This second installment of a two-part series explores Project MANA's activities from 1998, the year George LeBard took its helm, through present day. Project MANA celebrates its 15th anniversary this weekend with a special benefit.

When George LeBard became Project MANA's third executive director in 1988, the organization needed to consolidate its gains: the previous year, MANA had doubled the number of beneficiaries it served to nearly 10,000 people, took on a new board president and was making its education and nutritional programs a larger part of its mission.

"The things that needed the most work were organization and our ability to maximize our resources," LeBard said.

LeBard - a basin native who had recently returned to Incline Village after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize - spent much of the next year working to make MANA's organization and structure catch-up with its rapid growth and change.

Immersed in this work, LeBard initially turned-down an offer to join the board of a new organization that was forming in the village, the Parasol Community Foundation. Though LeBard was intrigued by PCF's mission to coordinate efforts between nonprofits in the North Shore, he didn't feel he had the expertise.

PCF wouldn't accept his answer, however, and sent their most charismatic member, Carla Hansen, to change LeBard's mind.

"Carla convinced me I was the one she needed to do the job, and I just couldn't say no," he said, still smiling with admiration and affection for the way she strong-armed him into joining PCF. Having served on PCF's board ever since, LeBard says the decision to join was one of the best ones he has made.

"Parasol challenged us to change the way we work and the way we think by encouraging us to work together instead of competing against each other," LeBard said. "Additionally, it really increased our sustainability, and I feel that if we (Project MANA) ever got into trouble financially, the collaboration would be there to help."

One of the greatest assets provided by PCF was the use of its new building, the D.W. Reynolds Center, which MANA moved into in 2002. Not only did the move finally give MANA the affordable office space it had always wanted, it also gave them the storage and kitchen space they had so desperately needed for so long. With the acquisition of a refrigerated truck that same year, their ability to retrieve unwanted food from local restaurants and casinos also increased rapidly, and their decision to reach their clients through distribution centers in Incline Village and Truckee, rather than through personal delivery, made their efforts much more efficient.

"Once our need for housing and funds were met, we could begin to look beyond our being just a food distribution program," said MANA board member Tony Remenih.

Having passed that watershed, MANA was beginning a long-term shift to give its nutrition education programs an equal footing with its hunger relief efforts. Soon after LeBard's arrival, MANA had established programs targeting middle and high school students as well as Hispanics about nutrition and how to eat a more balanced diet, trying to direct people away from the impression that if it's available, it's healthy. One of the students MANA reached was Rebecca Logan, an Americorps volunteer who began working for MANA on Monday.

"I was looking for Americorps opportunities and when I saw Project MANA I said 'Oh my God, I remember them!'" said Logan who, as MANA's new community education outreach coordinator, will be organizing and implementing the programs she was once on the receiving end of as a Truckee middle schooler.

Now serving more than 20,000 people with food annually, MANA sees itself expanding its educational programs to include senior citizens, working more closely with other hunger relief agencies and focusing more on empowering its clients.

"I think our focus is going to be more on growing in terms of educational services. We want to help our clients understand how to grow their own food, shop for food within their budget, and be self-educated in terms of nutrition," board member Pamela Tambourne said.

For LeBard, one of the biggest challenges is changing perceptions in the basin.

"There's a perception in America that nobody should be hungry ... that our clients weren't working and were living off of the system," he said. "The reality is that most of them do work and some of them, especially the single parents, work two jobs. That's better understood now than it used to be, but we've still got a way to go."

Staff writer Tom Meyer can be reached at 831-4666 ext. 112 or at tmeyer@tahoebonanza.com.

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Story Source: North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Belize; NGO's; Hunger


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