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Mahube expands services to Otter Tail, wadena

Mahube increased services to Otter Tail and Wadena counties, thus becoming Mahube-Otwa. Photo by Brian Basham

In 2012, Mahube Community Council expanded its boundaries to serve the people of Otter Tail and Wadena counties as well as the counties they already served — Mahnomen, Hubbard and Becker.

With the added counties, the name has added a few letters as well. It is now named Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership to include the two new counties.

“We wanted all counties to have recognition,” Executive Director Leah Pigatti said last year after the merger.

The change was official as of April 1, but it was a process that was in the works for nearly a year before it came to fruition.

It began when the Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Council Inc. approached Mahube about combining forces — much of it for funding reasons.

“All of us are frustrated with the funding picture,” Pigatti said.

With the constant talk of governmental agencies pairing together and designing their organizations, “someone finally did it and it worked out well,” Pigatti said of Mahube.

The two entities coming together wasn’t a merger. The Otter Tail-Wadena group dissolved and Mahube added the two counties to its existing workload.

“The board was courageous in taking this step,” she said.

The board of directors has stayed the same size — 18 members — but some members have left to make room for representatives from Otter Tail and Wadena counties.

The move is also an efficient one. Now the five counties will have one fiscal office, one human resources department, one technology department and one program director for each service provided.

“We have HR for 100 (employees). Can’t we add 50 more,” she said was the way they looked at taking over the two counties.

Detroit Lakes has stayed the headquarters for the agency, and each county has a site office. The agency also has been adding staff because of the increased numbers.

The services that Mahube already has been offering for years have simply been extended to the two added counties.

The only difference is Family Health, which includes family planning counseling, physical exam clinics, pregnancy and HIV testing, birth control and contraceptives and sexually transmitted infection screenings.

Other programs offered through Mahube-Otwa include Community Service Block Grant, Child Care Resource & Referral, Emergency Assistance, Energy Programs, Family Development, Head Start, Housing and Senior Programs.

“We’re pleased with the systems we have in place so we’ll just replicate them in the two new counties,” Pigatti said.

“All the funders have been very supportive of this,” she added. “We’ve had so much positive feed-back from funders.”

With the addition of more counties, Pigatti said it will be better for receiving grants because just about every grant wants a regional outlook, not just a single county.

She said Mahube-Otwa is already working to expand its programs to the new counties, like the HUD housing program, for instance.

Though all the programs have transitioned over since the start of the new fiscal year, the board and staff will continue to look at strategic planning for the future.

She said they may also have to redefine the vision and policy of Mahube now that there are two more counties and that many more people in need of services.

Along the way, Mahube-Otwa is developing a how-to manual on the changes, including what works best and what to watch out for, to present at conferences and conventions to show how they did it.

“I am so tremendously proud of our board,” Pigatti said. “This is really the future.