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Union Rescue Mission reaches fundraising goal -- and that means Hope Gardens can stay open

June 25, 2010 |  2:40 pm

Officials at Union Rescue Mission said Friday that they had raised sufficient funds to keep open Hope Gardens, a transitional housing center for women and children in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley.

"I'm feeling great relief," said Andy Bales, chief executive of Union Rescue Mission. "We're planning a celebration next month at Hope Gardens."

Like many nonprofits, Union Rescue Mission has been hard-hit by the recession. Demand for the organization's services, which include a downtown shelter, has increased 45% in the last two years, Bales said. But by late May, donations were down 21% from last year.

Unless the organization could raise $2.8 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, officials feared they would have to close Hope Gardens, which offers homeless women and children a tranquil atmosphere in which to rebuild their lives.

On May 24, Bales issued an emergency appeal for donations through his blog, Twitter, Facebook, text messages and snail mail. 

He said key support came from individuals such as Scott Minerd, a managing partner at Guggenheim Partners, who provided $1 million in matching contributions.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and he's really stepped up," Bales said. "But it's not just been the big gifts. It's been other people stepping forward with what they can that has helped get the matching funds."

The target was reached Friday morning with a $250,000 gift from the Louis & Gladyce Foster Family Foundation, he said.

Bales sent out a celebratory Tweet: "Thanks 2 you http://urm.org has received $2.9 Million towards $2.8 Million goal 2 Save Hope Gardens!"

The next step is to develop a plan to ensure the center remains financially viable, Bales said. All employees have already accepted two 5% pay cuts, and eight people were laid off, Bales said. The organization is also appealing for long-term support from Los Angeles County, which pays for security, counseling and other services at the site.

-- Alexandra Zavis