Cutbacks put mediation services at risk; Newberg among two major cities reducing its funding

Yamhill County Mediators (YCM), opened in 1991 and serving the county for 26 years, saw the cities of Newberg and McMinnville pull their funding for the program in the past six months, a 30-percent drop in the nonprofit's budget.

The decrease in funding poses a threat to its operational expenses and services, officials said.

This occurred because McMinnville changed its nonprofit application process and Newberg stopped funding for all nonprofits last spring due to budget cutbacks.

"We had been getting 100 percent of the city councils' funding to us annually for the past 10 years – well, Newberg missed one year because of financial difficulties," said YCM Executive Director Marlena Bertram. "McMinnville and Newberg were the two largest cities that pulled out and is where we provide most of our services: McMinnville received 65 percent of our services and Newberg received 22 percent.

"We do have a reserve that has carried us through this year, and we have somewhat reduced our expenses and only have one staff person. We have minimal costs. I've been writing lots of grants applications in the last six months, (but) it is fairly difficult because there is a lot of competition with others who have lost their municipal funding and the state funding.

"Also, the grantors do not want to fund operational expenses and that is what we need. They want to fund new innovative projects and programs. We need it to maintain our existing program, the community mediation that we already do. We have one staff coordinating 25 volunteers, if that one staff is reduced then that leveraging is reduced. The whole result is reduced."

"We are really having to re-think about our income streams. We are now having to charge the residents when they call. Some of our mediations do cost, like our parenting plan updates are $75 for an intake fee."

YCM has 25 volunteers who first goes through a training program before they can mediate. The 32-hour training program satisfies the state's mediation requirements to become a community volunteer mediator. YCM provides ongoing continuing education opportunities as well with supervised experience and mentorships to help build the skills and competence for their mediators.

"They are all volunteers, so they really have to have a heart for it and be willing to give up their own time and talents to help their community members and they don't get paid for it, so we really appreciate it," Bertram said.

YCM serves up to 230 mediation cases per year and last year in Newberg YCM had 42 cases that included 16-small claims in court, landlord-tenant, neighbor-to-neighbor, family, parenting plans or custody, parent and adolescent, workplace and school.

"I've done hundreds of mediations and there are so many positive things, when things go well, and it is a wonderful process. We call it the human connection. It's amazing. People come in angry with a lot of issues and then they end up at the end hugging or something," said Karecki Beth, a volunteer and board member for 25 years. "So often in life, people have conversations and sometimes they don't really listen. Listening is really the key to all communication and if you don't listen, you don't understand where the person is coming from. Once they listen and they understand the other person's perspective, as to why they did what they did or why they think what they think, they finally get it and a light bulb goes on."

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