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GAIA HOUSE STRUGGLING

ALAN ROGERS / THE SOUTHERN Gaia House Interfaith Center is shown on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 in Carbondale. The nonprofit is trying to raise about $4,000 to meet operating expenses.

CARBONDALE - Gaia House Interfaith Center, a longtime gathering place for SIU students and Carbondale community members, could close soon because of a financial shortage.

Staff directors Treesong and Jon-Paul Diefenbach said Monday, a $4,000 goal in funding must be reached by Feb. 28 or the center that has been hosting people for more than a half-century and offering them exposure or space for different spiritual practices, social justice programs and philosophies, could close permanently.

"We would close this building," Treesong said about the uniquely designed two-story structure at 913 S. Illinois near SIU. "There are no other options to relocate. This is a unique space."

Money is needed to continue operational costs such as meeting building utility bills and paying staff members. Operational costs run approximately $40,000 annually. The center pays about $200 annually to lease the building, Treesong said.

The shortage of money has been evolving as of late because several campus ministry groups and congregations throughout the area that gave to the center, have experienced decreased funding within their own groups, centers or parishes, he said.

Gaia House Interfaith Center has created some small revenue streams such as establishing a more stringent building use agreement, which ranges from $10 to $150 a day depending on the amount of space utilized.

"We looked around (SIU) campus and looked at the building use fees they were charging. We made ours cheaper," Diefenbach said.

Despite the forecasted funding shortfall, the center staff is moving ahead with future plans such offering more classes and a spring holiday party in March.

Important meetings have been scheduled this month at the center. A board of directors meeting beginning at 4 p.m. Feb. 15 will include the election of new officers. A stakeholders meeting will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 18 that is open to the public for more ideas and information concerning a future vision and guidance for the center, Diefenbach said.

The center is conducting an online funding drive through its website at www.ourgaiahouse.com and its Gaia House Facebook page.

 

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