3 groups contemplate merger

Three community groups are considering a merger to allow better service to the community.

Talks on a potential merger were announced Tuesday by STEP Inc., which already had agreed to partner with the Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action (CAPPA), but also will bring into the fold the Campbell Street Family, Youth and Community Association, which was asked late last year to vacate its home at The Center on Campbell Street.

“We’re very excited about it. We think it’s a tremendous opportunity, not only for the organizations, but for the community as well,” said Terry E. Roller, STEP president and CEO.

Although a merger isn’t imminent, a potential step toward one will take place by the end of the week as STEP is set to become CAPPA’s fiscal agent.

“That’s one … big step forward when looking at this process (of merging),” said Rachelle Abbott, STEP director of planning.

Loni Gamble, CAPPA founder and executive director, said the partnership with STEP will allow his organization to focus more on programming and less on fundraising.

“Having a team like STEP as a partner in this merger is a win-win for all of us,” he said. “It will give me the opportunity to concentrate on programs and not have to concentrate on so many other things.”

Gamble said talks about a possible merger began about six months ago. Roller said soon after speaking with CAPPA, STEP reached out to The Center as well.

Moving forward with a potential merger will take time. Roller said STEP has begun working with the other two organizations to look at services, programs, history, branding and finances to work toward a partnership.

He expects after reviewing options, a decision could be made by the end of the calendar year.

STEP has remained in close contact with CAPPA and The Center’s board of directors throughout the process.

John Kiernan, board member for The Center, said the discussions are about making the community stronger, as it “benefits and enriches” it.

“I think it’s a natural, organic development,” he said. “It’s a continuation of the legacy. It looks to me like a win-win-win.”

Roller added that all three organizations would be strengthened by partnering together. While STEP brings a stable infrastructure and organizational leadership, CAPPA and The Center bring diversity.

The merger also would make the organizations financially efficient. Gamble said it’s easier to work together.

“In this state of economy, it’s always smarter to pool the resources together,” he said.

Roller said there are more grant opportunities toward which STEP may assist CAPPA and The Center.

“By bringing the three organizations together, it makes it much more cost efficient,” he said.

And although STEP is in discussions with The Center on a possible merger, it does not mean it would look to buy its former facility at 600 Campbell St. The Lycoming Housing Authority, which owns the property, informed the association that its former home would be sold in late 2012. The group since has temporarily relocated to Trinity Episcopal Church, 844 W. Fourth St.

Roller said he is more interested in strengthening programming, but STEP could look at the building “down the road.” He also anticipates CAPPA will remain at its current location, 734 W. Fourth St.

The merger isn’t only about sustaining services but about growing.

Roller said it will “open doors to bring more resources, and not just sustain what’s going on but growing it as well.”

Kiernan called the potential move a “renaissance.”

Gamble said stronger services should be the goal with the merger.

“We’re excited,” he said. “After 10 years this is where we need to be now. It makes it better. It creates the programs we offer stronger.”