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Letter: Former Generations Unlimited director is ‘deeply saddened’ by agency’s current situation


Dear Editor:

As former Executive Director of Generations Unlimited, I am deeply saddened by the recent newspaper reports of the agency’s untenable situation. Cutting services to seniors and those who lack transportation access will have grave negative impacts on Barnwell County residents.
Because I was mentioned, yet again, in the article, I wanted to respond.

In February of 2022, County Council had the opportunity to support the Agency which was in need of one-time funding to help recover from the impact of pandemic related issues. At that time, GU was NOT IN DEBT and was just beginning to run into cash flow issues. GU was seeking help before the situation became as dire as it is today. We were taking a responsible course of action.

Through detailed financial reports provided to County Council by County Council’s own CPA, Neil Crider, Council members were well aware that there was no misappropriation or mismanagement of funds. They chose to use that as an excuse to “go in another direction” for reasons unknown to me.

Here are some facts:
• Under the leadership of the past Board of Directors, I successfully operated Generations Unlimited for a decade before the COVID 19 Pandemic.
• I requested American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding, which was federal funding designated to assist agencies and businesses who were struggling due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and which the County Council had.
• Instead of providing the funding when needed, County Council took control of the Agency.
• Bill Molnar, Executive Director of LSCOG, who is quoted in your article, was instrumental in the County Council’s decision to “go in another direction”. Also, for reasons unknown to me.
• The Agency was directly under the control of County Council for 15 months after my dismissal. Prior to this, no member of County Council or the County Administrator, Tim Bennet, had any knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the Agency or, really, any other aspect of the Agency. They had absolutely no plan in place on how the Agency would run upon my departure.
• The article states that County Council has invested a half million dollars into the Agency since they assumed control. GU received only $30,000 annually for the decade that I managed the Agency, plus an additional $50,000 prior to my dismissal.

In summary, Generations Unlimited simply needed assistance to recover from the Pandemic and an increase in annual funding above the $30,000. Two years and four months later, the Agency is in debt despite a huge infusion of money. They have cut services drastically, have no experienced staff or leadership, and are in danger of losing contracts to provide services.

Lisa Firmender,