Eastside center leader stepping down

A community leader often credited with improving the Eastside Community Center will step down next month.

“I’m ready to get out from behind a desk and get more interactive with people,” said executive director Priscilla Scalf, whose resignation is effective July 15. “I’ve been here 18 years, and I’m ready to move on to a new direction and do something different.”

Scalf, a former Columbus City Council member and 2011 Democratic mayoral candidate, said she plans to start a business that will involve teaching classes on gardening, creating home decor, primitives and repurposing.

Her decision to step down is not expected to impact any other staff members at the neighborhood community center at 421 McClure Road, Scalf said.

Scalf, who lost to Republican Kristen Brown in the 2011 mayoral general election, said her career decision should open up more time for another responsibility as Bartholomew County Democratic Party chairwoman.

The former ABC-Stewart Montessori School teacher and administrator was approached in 1998 by the late city councilman August Tindell and former Eastside board president Barb Minor to serve as director of the center.

On her first day on the job, she got news that the United Way of Bartholomew County had eliminated its funding to the center, Scalf said.

While the financial support eventually returned, Eastside lost it again — along with United Way certification — in 2013, according to Angela Shafer, president of the neighborhood center’s board of directors. United Way officials had concerns over governance at the time and later learned that Eastside owed the IRS about $60,000 in unpaid payroll taxes dating to 2011 and 2012, for which it set up an installment plan to pay up.

The $36,000 United Way grant in 2013 amounted to about 14 percent of the center’s $250,000 annual budget. The agency made up the financial loss through other funding sources, Shafer said.

“The total number of participants have increased, which has also helped us in additional funding,” Shafer said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but mostly ups, with Priscilla at the helm.”

After taking over as the center’s director, Scalf worked with a newly established board of directors to obtain a Community Development Block Grant and additional assistance from independent funding sources.

Not only did that money allow Eastside to install new floors, ceiling tiles and lighting that resulted in increased participation, it also enabled the center to begin new programs.

“Priscilla is excellent at determining the needs of our clients, especially in helping them with achieving financial security,” Shafer said.

With 25 percent of nearby residents at or below the poverty level, programs that became popular after the 2008 recession include:

Money matters classes

Pre-purchase and post-purchase housing counseling

Homeownership education

Foreclosure intervention

“If we can help people learn to build assets, then there’s a much higher chance of them escaping poverty and really moving forward,” Scalf said.

Eastside Community Center has been among the oldest and most constant advocates for the State Street Corridor revitalization, Shafer said.

During the flood of 2008, Scalf and other volunteers delivered 600 meals a day to displaced families and continued to do so for six months until the last city resident affected by the flooding was able to return home.

While much of the center’s work has been focused on serious issues, it also has maintained a lot of fun activities — from euchre to social networking classes, Scalf said.

Programs also were designed to appeal to young people that include Teen Thursday, Coffee House Jams and after-school homework mentoring, Shafer said.

Scalf said she’s especially proud of starting the Lemonade Day program, intended to teach area youth how to be young entrepreneurs, as well as the relatively new Good Choices program for preteens.

“The center is in a good place right now, and now seems to be the right time for Priscilla to make her move,” Shafer said.

If you go

A farewell reception for outgoing Eastside Community Center Executive Director Priscilla Scalf is scheduled for July 14.  The open-house style reception will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the center, at 421 McClure Road.  Information: 812-376-7840.

Priscilla Scalf

Priscilla Scalf

Position: Executive director of Eastside Community Center (since 1998)

Age: 60

Birthplace: Lower Michigan (moved to Columbus in 1984)

Education: Great Lakes Bible College

Experience: Former paralegal, 13-year teacher and administrator at ABC-Stewart Montessori School

Community: Bartholomew County Democratic chairwoman; former Democratic Party volunteer coordinator; 2000 graduate of Leadership Bartholomew County.

How to apply

The job of Eastside Community Center executive director has been posted on nonprofit websites. Candidates interested in applying for the position can send their resume and cover letter to Eastside board president Angela Shafer at angela.shafer@harrison.edu.

Shafer said she hopes to start interviewing candidates toward the end of next week.

On the Web

Visit the Eastside Community Center website at eastcc.org.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.