Meet the Need (MTN), a crisis center in Missouri, opened in 2004 with $40 in assets. A thrift store and flea-market onsite pay for the organization’s hard costs, while volunteers and donations run the assistance center that connects clients with crisis resources.
“We have an amazing group of volunteers—about 50 people who show up every month, some of them coming 2-3 times per week,” said Kris Peoples, the organization’s founder and Executive Director.
In March 2017, IFF, a Midwest CDFI that specifically lends to nonprofits, closed a new loan to finance a café onsite of MTN’s facility. The café will target MTN clients, people visiting patients at nearby Excelsior Springs Hospital, and surrounding community members who have few healthy food options.
But IFF was there, too, when an expansion like this couldn’t have been possible.
Since 2004, MTN rented its facility, and operated as it still does, with volunteers. After its strongest financial year to date in 2009, Meet the Need acquired its facility when IFF financed the purchase.
“Back then, the building was not in great shape, but it was all we could afford.” Peoples said. “There was this guy going around town buying cheap properties for cash, and we knew that if he got our property we wouldn’t be able to afford anything else. I called normal banks, and they all wanted 20 percent down, and there was just no way we could do that.”
The $309,000 loan closed in July 2009, but just three months later, tragedy struck. A fire destroyed all but 3,000 square feet of the building. More than 60 percent of MTN’s income came from the thrift shop and flea market, and that had just burnt to the ground.
True to the grassroots nature of MTN, local media coverage of the fire prompted donations and offers of in-kind construction services. But even after these contributions, and MTN obtained the maximum amount of insurance, the relatively low-value building just didn’t generate enough to pay for the necessary substantial repairs.
Kirby Burkholder, IFF Vice President and Executive Director for the Eastern Region, worked with Peoples on the 2009 acquisition loan and came back to work on a new construction loan to rebuild after the fire.
for MTN and Peoples, “IFF was big, yet seemed small enough to understand us individually. Kirby fought for me, and IFF played a huge, huge part in being willing to have such good terms that even somebody small like us could access financing.”
MTN paid off its original IFF loan with the insurance money and obtained a new $275,000 IFF loan for construction costs in April 2010. After a massive joint effort involving volunteers, churches, organizations, and businesses, MTN reopened its stores and Assistance Center later that year. They have been operating successfully, and paying back their loan on time since.
Today, with upgrades, the building is worth $1.2 million.
Now MTN is ready to take on the last remaining 15 percent of the building not utilized for operations with a new venture. MTN plans to transform the last 2,400 square feet into Opportunity Café and Coffee Shoppe. IFF closed a $61,000 loan in March 2017 with MTN to finance the business, which will generate revenue, while serving as a job-training opportunity for clients.
Like all of MTN’s operations, the new coffee shop is supported by many volunteer laborers and community partnerships. Several local contractors are pitching in to complete major efforts such as plumbing, flooring, and concrete. A donated barn will provide decorative lumber for the walls.
“Like everything else in life, you have your ideal of what’s going to happen and then you see what really happens,” said Peoples. “You have to be open to possibilities. Just by having this wonderful space that’s homey and awesome, it’s hard to tell what we can actually do with it.”
If the past is any indication, Peoples and the MTN volunteers will do great things with their new café.
(Date of loan: March 2017. Date of story publication: October 2017)