United Way releases funds to Northwest Dental Coalition

Fund-raiser for non-profit nears $10,000 mark


The local United Way office has released funds it withheld from the Northwest Dental Coalition in the wake of an alleged embezzlement that reportedly devastated the non-profit organization.

The Moffat County United Way board voted to fund the dental coalition and authorized the first of four payments of $3,750 for the 2002 operation of the non-profit group. The United Way has pledged a total of $15,000 towards the operation of the coalition for this year.

The board had voted in the first days of April to withhold any funding until the coalition had successfully implemented a series of organizational and fiscal management changes. The United Way made its funding contingent upon these requirements after the former director of the coalition, Robin McKenzie, was arrested on charges of theft.

"The coalition submitted a letter detailing how they addressed the issues we had requested they look at," Moffat County United Way Executive Director Corrie Scott said. "After a recommendation from the allocation committee, the board voted unanimously to release the funds.

"The board is incredibly supportive of this program and we want to see it succeed. I'm happy to see us be able to release the money and see the coalition get back to work and moving forward."

Non-profit organizations that are awarded funds are usually paid on a quarterly schedule, receiving money on fifteenth day of April, July, October and the following January.

"We've seen that they've met all the financial and organization requirements," Scott said. "We will continue to monitor them a little closer than other organizations for this year, and then go back to our usual level of oversight."

Scott said a $1,000 allocation from the Moffat County Human Resource Council was also released. The coalition will receive the total sum of that funding immediately.

The Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition is currently soliciting donations from the community through a media drive to help it recover from the alleged embezzlement. The coalition is seeking $15,000 to cover the debts that amassed during McKenzie's alleged mismanagement.

Garoutte has been heard daily on the 93.3 KRAI FM radio station morning show and information on where donations are being accepted is running on a ticker on the digital television offered by the local AT&T office. Coalition board members Cheryl Ivy and Ann Irvin are organizing a commercial with K27FA Channel 27, Garoutte said.

All these media outlets are donating their services to the coalition.

Rick Allen of KRAI said Thursday morning that donations have been pouring in from all over the area and beyond.

"People have donated from outside the area who do not have a vested interest (in the coalition)," Allen said.

Allen said that by mid morning the radio station had received more than $2,000, bringing the total amount to more than $8,000.

"We've had challenges from so many companies," Allen said. "We've had challenges from The Memorial Hospital and Yampa Valley Medical Center has called to see how much TMH has donated. Steamboat Resorts has challenged other property management associations."

Allen said Excel has said it will match whatever amount local employees raise and Yampa Valley Electric has made a similar pledge.

The United Way allocations are another positive step towards recovery, said Debi Garoutte, the coalition's executive director since March 27.

It's a very good feeling to have someone else show confidence in us," Garoutte said. "We've always believed in ourselves, and to have this and see how the community has responded is very inspirational and motivational. It's also a great relief."

Representative of the coalition will travel to Steamboat Springs on Wednesday to attend the Routt County United Way board meeting, which also withheld its $9,000 allocation after McKenzie's arrest. Garoutte said she expects the Routt County office to release the funds.

Now that funding for operating the coalition for 2002 is a reality, the non-profit organization will be cementing its reservation for a 10-week visit from the Miles for Smiles van in August, Garoutte said.

The Miles for Smiles van is a mobile dental facility that offers treatment to children of families who cannot afford dental services or insurance, and is operated by Kids In Need of Dentistry out of Denver.

McKenzie was arrested on March 27. She faces misdemeanor and felony charges of theft. Authorities allege McKenzie embezzled more than $30,000 from the coalition and more than $300 from Moffat County Partners, another local non-profit she had joined as an employee after leaving the coalition.

McKenzie is free on a personal recognizance bond and is due in district court for an arraignment hearing on June 17.

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