NEWARK -- The League of Volunteers, a well-known nonprofit group already on the verge of losing its office, now is in danger of folding because of a sizable debt it owes its landlord -- the Newark Unified School District.
The longtime charity organization, known as LOV, owes the district $67,000 in unpaid rent for using an office inside the former Ruschin Elementary School, said Dave Marken, Newark's superintendent of schools.
LOV Executive Director Shirley Sisk said she wrote the district a check last week for about $8,500 to pay back rent on another district site, the MacGregor/Bridgepoint School cafeteria, which LOV uses twice a week for fundraising bingo games. But the substantial amount of back rent is still owed for the Ruschin site.
Sisk, a former Newark council member who cofounded LOV in 1979, said she presented a payment plan Thursday to district officials and that negotiations will continue next week.
"I want to pay back what I owe," Sisk said. "I really want to work with them, and I'm hoping that my proposal will show my good faith."
District officials recently informed LOV and Morning Star Church -- another Ruschin site tenant -- that they have until May 31 to vacate the property because they plan to sell the school, Marken said. The former school, which closed in 1989, is on a 10-acre site at 36120 Ruschin Drive.
The district started exploring the idea of selling the property in 2004 and recently hired Dutra¿ Cerro Graden, a Dublin-based real estate firm, to facilitate a deal. The district hopes the land sells for as much as $13 million, which would be spent on technology upgrades and to augment $63 million in bond funds that Newark voters approved 16 months ago to modernize the city's schools, Marken said.
The sale may leave LOV without a home, but Sisk said she has been looking at alternative office spaces in the Tri-City area. A bigger problem for LOV is that the district recently gave the organization until May 31 to vacate the MacGregor site, as well. That threatens LOV's survival, Sisk said, because the bingo games held at MacGregor have become LOV's steadiest revenue stream.
"We all know we have to leave Ruschin, but we need to have bingo going at MacGregor or we don't exist," she said.
Sisk is a Newark community stalwart who has spent decades doing charity work through LOV. The organization's many programs include those that provide free supper to thousands of homeless people each Thanksgiving, a summer lunch program that feeds about 250 Tri-City children, the Toys for Tots program that gives Christmas gifts to children in need, a free musical concert series and scholarships to students for music, fine art and photography.
"Hopefully, we can continue to operate those programs," Sisk said.
Elaine Neilsen, Newark schools' chief business official, said she remains hopeful that the district will reach a quick agreement with LOV that will reduce the debt and keep the charity from going out of business.
"I'm a big proponent of these nonprofit groups, so I usually try to work with them," Neilsen said.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.