ONTARIO – The departure of the longtime director of Origins Faith Community Outreach last spring was prompted by an internal audit, which included a financial review, triggered by the Covid pandemic.
Frank Borst, Origins Faith Community Outreach board member and secretary, confirmed last week Heather Echeveste left the executive director position in March. Echeveste’s departure was not widely known outside the organization until late May, when rumors of her termination began to emerge.
Sandy Kendall, who works fulltime for Community in Action in Ontario, is serving as interim executive director. She once was a case worker for Origins.
Borst, one of three members of the Community Outreach Board, said the internal audit was conducted because the board sought to “establish a baseline on how to move the organization forward.”
“It was in that audit that we discovered some things that gave us some pause and concerned the board. We saw enough there that we felt like a change of leadership was warranted,” said Borst.
Messages to a cell phone number associated with Echeveste were not returned.
Borst said some of the Community Outreach’s “account practices and standards in some areas were not up to what we’d expect them to be,” at the organization’s thrift store, called The Bridge, in Ontario. The Bridge closed June 1, after the owner of the building decided to sell it, said Borst.
“We should be keeping track of records of our financial transactions more effectively and in a more streamlined fashion than what we were doing,” he said.
Community Outreach, at 312 N.W. Second St. in Ontario, oversees a meal site called New Hope Kitchen and provides drug and mental health counseling. It is part of Origins Faith Community Church. Borst said there is some confusion in the community regarding the role of the church and the outreach initiative.
“There has been some perception they are two separate organizations and they are not,” said Borst.
Community Outreach is organized as a nonprofit, he said and funded through state and federal grants.
Borst said the outreach program is now searching for its next executive director.
There are no plans, said Borst, to close the meal site. Instead, he said, the board hopes to expand the hours.
“We are trying to figure out how we can do that more efficiently rather than to shut down,” he said.
Now the meal site offers meals Monday through Friday, providing about 100 per day.
Borst said the meal site is a cooperative effort between Community Outreach and Community in Action.
Borst is also the executive director of the Pacific Northwest Association for the Church of God, headquartered in Anderson, Indiana.
“Origins is just one of 47 churches that are part of that association,” said Borst.
He said both the church and the outreach program are moving forward.
“We are looking to continue services. We are not shutting down,” he said.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.