SBA Loan Keeps Caregivers Working, Helping Those Most Vulnerable

Ellen Poage has been in Oregon Mennonite Residential Service’s care for four years. She’s also the Portland Trail Blazers’ biggest fan and is famous for her contagious smile.


Before COVID-19, Oregon Mennonite Residential Services was on the brink of something big — a significant funding increase that would have helped the organization on a number of levels.

Then the world changed, and the potential for increased funding disappeared. It kept Loralei LaVoie, the organization’s Executive Director, up at night.

“We were just on the brink of solving this problem, when COVID-19 hit. We care for 51 residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We specialize in 24-hour residential care. Our funding is Medicaid-based, which helps provide staffing support.”

The disappointment was palpable. The organization employs 130 people who provide a variety of essential services. They focus on integration, independence, productivity, and skill-building. They also add in lots of fun activities, emphasizing connectivity through social events and daily outings. Always living its core mission, Oregon Mennonite Residential Services continues to provide the best quality of life for those most vulnerable.

The organization owns more than a dozen homes, where residents live full time in McMinnville and Albany, Oregon. Each home has a house manager; an assistant manager; and trained, devoted caregivers.

“It’s the people that make us special. Our caregivers provide highly skilled support. It’s critical and life-sustaining.”
– Loralei LaVoie, Executive Director, Oregon Mennonite Residential Services

The residents come to depend on their caregivers, and in many circumstances, the caregivers have assisted the same residents for dozens of years. The familiar faces and trust are essential in providing the best care.

COVID-19 not only put funding on hold; it required so much more of the caregivers — their hours were increased so they could be with residents as they quarantined at home. Additional contact also meant caregivers needed more personal protective equipment. And the organization supplied residents with technology, like iPads, so that they could see their relatives and friends online to feel connected during an uncertain time.

“It caused anxiety and worry — the whole world flipped upside down. Routines were disrupted and staff has had to provide a lot of mental health support. They are essential workers. The people we care for need us 24/7,” LaVoie said.

So when the new funding opportunity vanished, Oregon Mennonite Residential Services reached out to Central Willamette Credit Union for help. The organization applied for and received an SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan, which LaVoie said will help immensely.

“This loan will definitely help us continue with wages and benefits that are really important in keeping our workforce strong and healthy,” she said.

Oregon Mennonite Residential Services has a history with the credit union. In the past, Central Willamette Credit Union employees have provided the organization’s staff with financial education.

“Employees wanted to learn more about their financial health and wellness, so the folks at Central Willamette volunteered their time and brought training sessions to the staff. Since that time, we’ve had seven employees become homeowners, based on what they learned in that class. It’s phenomenal,” LaVoie said.

For Central Willamette, providing those services is part of its core mission of “People Helping People.”

“Small business along with nonprofits are the backbone to a community, bringing growth, jobs and innovation,” said President and CEO, Stacie Wyss-Schoenborn.

Since the start of the program, the credit union has provided 116 SBA loans for $4.4 million. Maintaining long-term jobs for community members is a priority, Wyss-Schoenborn said.

“Owners of small businesses are your friends and neighbors, they contribute to the unique identity and success of a community. We’re very proud to have an opportunity to be a resource for our local small business and non-profits during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.”

Have a question or comment about this story? Email us!

Posted in Article Post.