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Budget woes bounce Dupree from Community Connection
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Forsyth County News

Jerry Dupree has been the heart behind Hands on Forsyth.

He is the face of the Snug as a Bug and Helping Hands for Seniors programs. His volunteer work throughout the community recently earned him the AmeriCorps Member of the Year award.

And yet, his capacity for giving was no match for the economic struggle affecting the county, state and nation.

By the end of the month, Dupree will say goodbye to his job at Community Connection and the Hands on Forsyth division, where he's worked as a volunteer services coordinator for nearly three years.

"I've never had such a good feeling about doing anything I've ever done in my life until I worked in this position," said Dupree, a former IBM project manager. "It's just heartbreaking.

"I think I've made a difference and I know I've made a lot of good friends and met a lot of good people."

Community Connection, a private, nonprofit family partnership, has three paid employees. But with fewer incoming donations and a much greater need, budget cuts were inevitable.

"Back in September, we started considering some budget cutbacks," said Kevin Tallant, director of Community Connection's board. "By the time we got around to our October board meeting, things had only gotten much worse.

"Rather than keep our fingers crossed and keep paying out money from what little reserves we had, we had to make a decision."

In addition to Dupree's salary, the board also cut back on conferences and seminars, advertising, supplies and travel expenses. In total, Tallant said, between 15 to 20 percent of the organization's budget was slashed.

"It's not something we were happy to do, but we felt like we had to do it," Tallant said. "It was hard to let him go. It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done.

"He is going to be missed. He was an asset to the connection."

Nicole McCoy, Community Connection's executive director, said the difficult decision reflects what many organizations are going through.

"I can't think of any one of my [community] partners that isn't going through some sort of budget reduction, including ourselves," McCoy said.

It's going to be difficult to replace the work Dupree has done for the organization, but McCoy said with less donations she must rely more heavily on volunteers who have helped in the past.

"We are trying to maximize the use of volunteers," she said. "They give up their time freely. So if we can utilize volunteers over having to actually pay a staff person, that enables more funds to go toward direct support of people in need."

It's a bad time to be looking for a job, Dupree said, but he hopes his record of dedication and compassion will complement his resume of nonprofit work.

Dupree said once he finishes the projects he's started, which could take until the end of the month, he will bow out.

"Right now, I'm just in a hurting stage," he said.

Leaving Community Connection will not affect his work as president of the Miracle League, a project providing an athletic program to children and adults with disabilities.

"I'm not going anywhere with that," he said. "That's one that as long as I'm drawing a breath, I'm going to be involved in.

"I'll still help with any [Hands on Forsyth] work even if I'm not employed. I love that type of work. I love working with low-income seniors and families and I've gotten really close to them.

"It's what I want to continue to do."