Downtown Association back on track

New board members return nonprofit to good status in six months

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

After six months, the Lebanon Downtown Association reported they restructured their executive board and brought the nonprofit back into good standing with the State after having reobtained its 501c(3) status, gotten back in compliance with Oregon Main Street and the Department of Justice, updated IRS filings and completed the past and current budgets.

LDA President Shellie Jackola and Secretary Dala Johnson gave a presentation to the City Council on Jan. 10.

“It’s been a busy six months,” Johnson said. “We have been diligently working behind the scenes to make this happen. I really give kudos to Shellie, number one, for leading us, but to the entire board that has put forth the effort to make LDA what it is right now.”

In addition to getting current on all legal requirements and continuing most traditional LDA events, the new board initiated Movies in the Park, brought the Quirky Turkeys project back, launched a scarecrow competition, installed three murals, started distributing a monthly newsletter, initiated a “spotlight business of the week” on Facebook and developed a strategic plan for the next two years.

Emily Ho’okano spends a summer day working on her strawberry-themed mural at Hazella Bakery.

Jackola reported LDA initiated a survey with downtown businesses and found one of the main problems they face is limited parking. Oregon Main Street (OMS) also initiated an audit of LDA.

OMS Coordinator Sheri Stuart told Lebanon Local the evaluation is a way for OMS to assess issues and opportunities that impact downtown.

“The program review includes an online community survey, on-site visit and interviews, and potentially additional follow-up interviews as needed,” she said. “This process helps us understand what the community would like to see happen in downtown, and we will offer recommendations for LDA to consider on areas they can focus and improve. It will also help us identify any follow-up assistance the board will need.”

Stuart said she received 99 survey results, which is a “really good response” rate, and had “good conversations in town” and with downtown merchants. Results of the evaluation will be completed and returned to LDA in a week.

“We are doing positive things in our community, we are doing things right,” Johnson said. “We are being held to a standard.”

Johnson noted there had been concerns in the past about how money through LDA was handled, but, she said, the current board is being a positive role model and “doing what we need to do.”

“It’s been many, many years since that has happened,” Johnson said.

Quirky Turkeys returned to Main Street this past summer.

She said it was an arduous process to figure out what the previous board’s 2022-23 budget was, but was ultimately able to present a breakdown of where funds went for payroll, marketing, events, rent, supplies and fees.

Councilors Michelle Steinhebel and KJ Ullfers expressed appreciation for the board’s efforts to restore LDA.

After Ullfers last year inquired about City funding to LDA, the public became aware there were some problems within the organization. Johnson said the board at that time had not maintained filings with the IRS and DOJ, and had lost its status as a nonprofit entity.

Johnson, one of the founding members of LDA and a former executive board member until 2018, said she returned to the nonprofit at the beginning of 2023 in an effort to straighten out the problems it was having.

At the time Johnson returned to LDA, Jeannie Davis was president, Gamael Nassar was vice president, Brittany Nassar was secretary and Cody Zuniga was treasurer. But in June 2023 as LDA prepared to ask the City for $30,000, Davis stepped down as president and the Nassars – who were not present at the meeting – were voted off the board. Davis moved into the role of secretary while Jackola and Shannon Miller were voted in as president and vice president. Two weeks later, Davis was asked to step off the board and Johnson took over the secretary’s position.

In addition to Jackola and Johnson, the current executive board consists of Vice President Shannon Miller and Treasurer Cody Zuniga. Board members at large (who also have voting power) include Chris Breshears, Bill Flesher, Christina Poteet and Nancy Randall.

Jesse Clayton and Ashley Crawford pose in front of the mural they began working on at Lebanon Liquor Store.

The LDA’s mission statement is to “serve the community by promoting economic vitality, preservation of downtown businesses and our historic heritage.”

To serve its mission, the LDA receives funding through the City of Lebanon, donations and events, and uses the funds to hire a Main Street Manager, cover operational costs and market downtown events in an effort to encourage more people to visit the downtown area and its businesses.

The City of Lebanon also offers grants through its Downtown Building Restoration Program for structural and decorative building improvements, providing partial payment for the cost of such improvements.

In 2022, the following businesses or building owners were recipients of the grants: Cafe Rock, Conversion Brewing, Hair Express Salon and Spa, Ken and Shellie Jackola (former Downtown Dog building), Kento, Lebanon Indoor Shooting Range, Straight Shooters Sporting Goods, and The Weatherford LLC (former Wells Fargo building).