Collaborative that helps Ventura County military families, vets, looking for new home
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The Ventura County Military Collaborative, a network of nearly 200 government and nonprofit agencies that work together to help the military and veteran communities, is looking for a new home.
Since fall 2013, the collaborative has been operating inside a suite at 4001 Mission Oaks Blvd. in Camarillo, a building owned by the Ventura County Community Foundation.
On Sept. 21, Kim Evans, founder and executive director, received an email stating that as of Oct. 31, the collaborative would no longer be able to rent space in the building.
“Looks like we are in the market for a new home,” Evans posted on Facebook on Sept. 21.
The next day, however, the foundation decided to let the collaborative extend its stay through Jan. 10 — free of charge starting Oct. 31, said Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation.
“I was working all night to try to find a solution,” Bechtel said. “I really care about what they’re doing for veterans, so I was racking my brain with whatever solution to come up with to help them.”
The solution was to have the collaborative share the foundation’s space downstairs.
“The space is part of our space — I’m just going to have my team move over desks in the back, and we’ll give them the front part,” Bechtel said. “We’ve invited them to share our space with us for no cost so they can have the smoothest transition possible.”
The reason the collaborative must move “is because we’ve been subsidizing that space more than 50 percent every month,” Bechtel said. “It came to the point where we needed to rent it out closer to market rate, so a new tenant is going to be taking that space over.”
She declined to name the new tenant, saying, “We are in the very final stages of the lease negotiations with several tenants.”
The collaborative paid $810 a month, Evans said, which was covered through donations.
While the new space is smaller — about 200 square feet compared to the 600 in the suite — Evans said she is grateful to the foundation for the extended stay and generosity of free rent.
“Vanessa and the Ventura County Community Foundation worked very hard to accommodate us,” Evans said. “I’m thrilled with what they’ve offered us.”
Adjustments will be required, especially when it comes time to prepare for Operation Snowflake, scheduled for Dec. 16 this year. The annual party draws dozens of military families so children of active-duty service members and veterans can pick from thousands of toys donated by the community. Toys have traditionally filled the conference rooms at the Ventura County Community Foundation.
“The biggest impact on Operation Snowflake is our ability to function,” Evans said. “We’ll have to pack up most of our stuff and operate remotely from the office downstairs. In the beginning, a lot of the stuff was stored in my garage, so we might go back to that for this year.”
The collaborative will also need furniture.
“We have no furniture because everything is tied to the office space,” Evans said. “We have no desks, no filing cabinets — literally nothing.”
By Jan. 10, Evans hopes to have found a one-stop shop for the wide range of services offered by the collaborative — from a free book club to a legal clinic.
“In a perfect world, what we’d really like is a building for veterans,” she said. “If someone said, ‘Here’s a magic wand. What do you want?’ I’d love a space where we could have our programs on site, and host other agencies’ programs on site, like energy healing for veterans. I envision a space for veterans by veterans, where whatever needs to be done, we have a space for everybody.”
Bechtel said the foundation “really cares about what Kim is doing.”
“I wanted to stretch it out as long as possible because we loved having them,” Bechtel said. “We’re fully in support of the work they’re doing, and I can’t thank them enough. We believe in Kim, and I’m thrilled that this community has her leadership, and I’m grateful that we were able to help in this transition period.”
Evans and the Ventura County Military Collaborative can be reached at 218-1930.