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Chaffee Green, the citizen action grassroots organization concerned with sustainability and environmentally friendly practices in Chaffe County, has moved closer to a partnership with the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA). A draft of the partnership plan agreement was presented to Chaffee Green members during their Jan. 16 meeting, outlining significant benefit to align the grassroots effort with GARNA’s programming.

“GARNA is really excited to be exploring a merger enfolding Chaffee Green into GARNA,” said GARNA’s Executive Director Dominique Naccarato.

As outlined in the draft document, the partnership would allow Chaffee Green to operate as a sustainability-action program beneath GARNA’s existing structure; offering a variety of benefits to both Chaffee Green and GARNA.

“The new Chaffee Green program within GARNA will enhance an already dynamic and productive nature-based organization while addressing the sustainability gap within Chaffee County,” said Naccarato.

The partnership draft document was composed by a Chaffee Green and GARNA joint exploratory committee. The committee was comprised of two GARNA board members and Executive Director Naccarato as well as 4 Chaffee Green volunteers.

“We are doing this mindfully, we are not doing this without a lot of thought and preparation,” said spokeswoman for Chaffee Green Jacy Doumas. “It’s a need, and this grass-roots volunteer organization is evidence of that. We are delighted be exploring partnership with GARNA.”

With its 22 years of experience in the Arkansas Valley, GARNA has an established reputation with county residents. Much of GARNA’s programming is geared towards high-quality education on stewardship and sustainability. Partnering with Chaffee Green gives GARNA’s programming an action-oriented focus to cooperate with its education-centric core.

Adding Chaffee Green to its already-existing education programming makes GARNA a more appealing applicant for grants and other funding opportunities.

Operating within GARNA’s existing structure means Chaffee Green would obtain GARNA’s 5013 non-profit status. The 501c3 status allows Chaffee Green to offer tax-deductions for donations and enables the organization to begin fundraising as soon as a partnership is officially established.

The partnership would also allow Chaffee Green to operate under GARNA’s existing insurance policy. This is critical to realize Chaffee Green’s desire to host public events.

Chaffee Green is comprised only of passionate volunteers. GARNA has an existing Board of Directors; meaning Chaffee Green volunteers will not have to form their own board. Instead, GARNA will add at least one Chaffee Green member to its existing Board to ensure coordination and synchronize Chaffee Green with GARNA’s processes and development. Chaffee Green’s accounting processes will also fall beneath GARNA’s existing treasury department.

GARNA will receive 5 percent of all funds generated by Chaffee Green to mitigate the increase in overhead costs associated with taking on Chaffee Green’s organization.

Meeting organizers acknowledged that the addition of Chaffee Green to GARNA’s already limited staff and resources may prove to be a challenge. They say communication and coordination will be paramount in making the partnership work.

GARNA operates primarily in Chaffee County, but does undertake some tasks in Lake County. Doumas wanted to ensure grass-roots organizations in Lake County that, despite Chaffee Green’s partnership with GARNA, Chaffee Green will not seek to expand outside of Chaffee County.

“GARNA serves the Arkansas valley and extends its services to Lake County,” Doumas pointed out. “Chaffee Green, while [open to] partnering with Lake County’s Cloud City Conservation Center (C4), will not be infringing on or duplicating [C4’s] services (in Lake County). We are mindful of those territories.”