Published: Oct 01, 2012 09:10 AM
Modified: Oct 01, 2012 09:12 AM
CARY - The last rides and food stands leave Dorcas Ministries’ Cary headquarters on Sunday night. The local nonprofit is wrapping up its carnival, cotton candy and all, to mark its first year at its expansive new location, and to pay down the mortgage.
“It’s a celebration with the community, it’s our first anniversary, and it’s a fundraiser for Dorcas,” said Deirdre Jersey, a capital campaigner for the charity, as a carnival crew from Franklinton touched up a house of mirrors and prepped the cotton candy van.
In all, the charity hosted four nights of rides and treats alongside local entertainment acts – and each $2 ticket sold chipped away at the $3 million the charity needs to fund its metamorphosis.More than a store
When the group moved into its new home at Cary Plaza last October, it didn’t just get more rack space. The 44-year-old charity bought the entire shopping center, which it is converting to a business center for nonprofits.
“We were all a little nervous, but we were very convinced that it was the right thing to do,” said Howard Manning, the charity’s executive director.
Since it moved a year ago, Dorcas has expanded its sales by 40 percent, to about $800,000 a year.
The yearly mortgage bill of about $227,000 has consumed much of that increase, but there was enough left to expand outreach programs by about 40 percent, to $215,000, Manning said. (The group typically spends equal amounts on expenses and grants to the needy.)
The plaza itself, at 187 High House Road, also has seen changes this year, including the addition of more than 800 rooftop solar panels, a Habitat for Humanity ReStore and a growing collection of nonprofits.
The center’s current tenants also include the Triangle Alano Club, which is linked to Alcoholics Anonymous; the nonprofit Triangle Aphasia Project; the Islamic Academy of North Carolina; a for-profit daycare; and a billiards hall. Dorcas also is negotiating to bring in the Wake County Department of Health and Human Services and another Cary-based nonprofit, Manning said.
In all, Dorcas Ministries is about a fifth of the way through its $3 million capital campaign, which will pay down the mortgage and refitting costs for Cary Plaza. Dorcas Ministries, also known as Christian Community in Action, bought the center for about $3.6 million in 2008.Recent journey
Almost all of the group’s dramatic expansion has come since Manning took the executive position in 2006. The 59-year-old Cary resident came to the organization as a volunteer, just out of his 2003 retirement from a high-level GlaxoSmithKline job.
Manning’s first job at Dorcas was to test electronics, from toasters to computers. By 2004, he was managing the old store on Maynard Road, and a couple years later he was in the director’s chair.
“When I arrived, we didn’t have any business plan, any strategic plan. We had a group of very astute-minded, progressive people,” he said. “No plan, but direction.”
It was the strong performance of the retail store that made him confident of expansion plans, he said. Metrics showed it performed well compared to most retail outlets – which he credits to customer loyalty and the quality of the store.
Now the transition’s nearly finished and the nonprofit, which was born from a coalition of black and white churches, is drafting the next chapter of its strategic plan. The next big step for Dorcas Ministries, will be to offer help to more people, Manning said.