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Victory Mission Trims Budget by Reducing Staff, Closing 'Branch Bistro' Restaurant

Victory Mission
The Victory Trade School teaches culinary arts, and has won numerous awards for its programs. (Photo credit: Victory Trade School Facebook page)

There’s an organization in Springfield that feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, trains the jobless, and counsels drug addicts and alcoholics.  And that’s just the beginning.  Victory Mission, a faith-based organization, plays a critical role in serving Springfield's most vulnerable citizens.  But like many other non-profit groups, it’s had to make some tough cutbacks, including staffing. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson has more.

Jim Harriger is a busy man:  as the executive director of Victory Mission, he oversees all of those programs. He also oversees the operating budget.

“We have, over the past years, worked at increasing income. And we’ve had some success with that. But the reality is that the expenses seem to increase at the same time. As our board met through the past six months, their direction to me was to show a reduction in our expenses. So, we were shooting for a 15% reduction over our 2013 expenses. We came close. But what it means is, in order to make those reductions—and continue the core operations of the organization—you have to make some decisions,” Harringer said.

Victory Mission’s decision was to close the “Branch Bistro” restaurant, a training site located inside the Assemblies of God headquarters. That closed January 3, 2014. The organization also decided to reduce staffing, since that’s the biggest single expense:  five administrative positions have been cut over the past two years. Two were in development, and three were in the Victory Trade School.  

The restaurant that closed, “Branch Bistro,” was not the same as “Cook’s Kettle” restaurant on Commercial Street, which is also operated by Victory Mission.  “Cook’s Kettle” is still open to the public for business.

“We have scraped and scrabbled to try to make things work. We do the fund development. We do ask the community, ‘Please give,’” Harringer said.

Despite tightening the belt, Harringer says says Victory Mission still has a lot to look forward to in 2014.

“We’re still here. We’re in the same place. I just walked by our food pantry.  Our lobby is full as people are coming in to receive food from our food pantry.  They’re writing vouchers for clothing and furniture that will go to Victory Vintage. Our men’s facility, Victory Square, is full. We have women involved in our Victory House New Life program as part of the Victory Trade School. Students are in laboratory and in class,” Harringer said.

Harriger said the public can continue to support Victory Mission through donations, dining at the Cook’s Kettle, and shopping at the Victory Vintage thrift store at 824 Commercial Street.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.