West Mt. Airy Neighbors finishes out fiscal year with a profit

After battling budget woes for the past several years, the West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN) has finished their fiscal year in the black.

“The organization is healthy, our cash balance has gone up, membership is going up, and with your help this organization will be around for another 100 years,” said Martin Schmieg, WMAN chief financial officer, at the organization’s annual meeting on Tuesday night.

In years past, WMAN has received funding from memberships, fundraisers and grants from the City of Philadelphia.

But with the city’s various budget crises, grant funding is extremely limited.

Schmieg said WMAN has suffered a loss of about $20,000 worth of grant money from the city.

The first step in revamping the civic association’s budget woes came in 2011 when it hired Marilyn Cohen as executive director. Cohen, a Philadelphia native and current Mt. Airy resident, has extensive experience in fundraising and community development, particularly after serving on Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress on its Reconstruction Development Plan in 1992.

Since under Cohen’s rule, WMAN has vastly decreased debt — going from a 2011 loss of $9,000 to the current $4,000 profit.

“I’ve just been thrilled to have the support of the community to keep this a community,” said Cohen of the long-awaited profit. “[West Mt. Airy is] not just a neighborhood, we’re a community — and that’s the way it has sustained the organization.”

WMAN has slashed costly operations such as having office space (it now operates remotely) as well as cutting the number of paid members. To gain funds, WMAN has engaged in massive membership drives the past two years. Though they did not reach their goal of 1,000 members, the civic association went from 432 members in October 2011 to a current 510 members.

An annual membership costs individuals $30 and families $60.

The organization’s main source of cash is from fundraisers, like Eat Your Heart Out and Mt. Airy Day. Schmieg estimated in June 2012 that about $25,000 is raised from these two efforts alone.

Increased funding is essential to WMAN’s functions, Cohen said, so that it can continue to offer its services to the community such as the streetscapes committee which has planted about 300 trees in the neighborhood.

Both Cohen and Schmieg are hopeful cash conditions at the organization will continue to improve.

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