Patrons optimistic after Seniors Center meeting, services starting to return

Misha Davis
Misha Davis

People may have gone to the Bonners Ferry Seniors Hospitality Center Tuesday night hoping to see fireworks, but those fizzled quickly, quenched by a take charge new interim CEO who stayed laser focused on the task at hand and refused to engage or even countenance the many rumors that have been swirling since the center abruptly closed at the end of March and has operated in crisis mode since, with concerns of possibly losing a facility that so many of the county’s elders rely on.

Misha Davis was hired to take over as center director effective April 1, but stepped down due to serious concerns over the lack of management or accounting systems, a lack of records or receipts …

“I worried about stepping into a trap,” she said.

Instead of accepting the paid job, she instead offered … volunteered … to step in as interim CEO, set the ship aright, effect essential repairs and give her back to the ship’s master.

“I’m not here to step on toes,” she said. She spoke of her almost idyllic first eight years growing up on the historic Sweet place out Highway 2, her Grandma Ruby being a Sweet. “I’m here to ensure that the elders in my family, such as Dolores Sweet, don’t become isolated. Her bowling and writing up Tuesday’s Trouble scores, her coming to the Seniors Center every week for nachos and bingo mean more to her than anyone can understand. They give her a job to do, a purpose”

A devout and dedicated Christian who trusts implicitly in a higher power, Misha made clear that her goal was nothing less or more than to see the Seniors Hospitality Center open, filled with happy seniors, properly availed the many needed services the center provides.

While the seniors center appears closed, she said nobody who knocks has been turned away. Those needing a meal get one, albeit take out. Home delivered meals to shut-ins are being delivered with no interruption. Life at each of the three senior housing units goes on as before. Marciavee stops in often to pick up a meal and check on her plants.

Beginning this Friday, April 12, the center will be open every Friday to all seniors for their regular hot lunch services. Volunteers are encouraged to arrive to aid Amy in the kitchen from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and beginning Monday, April 15, all seniors are encouraged to call (208) 267-5553 by 10 a.m. to request a “grab-n-go” meal (as done during COVID) each Monday through Thursday.

Faced with initial skepticism, if not outright hostility, she was able, for the most part, to convince the 40 or so in attendance both of her sincerity and her competence.

She outlined a number of problems that threaten the center and some of the needs; computers, filing cabinets, professional volunteers to help; lawyers, accountants, IT specialists and more, all necessary to rebuild the many systems necessary to bring the center back into compliance.

She said she and staff are beginning to make small inroads in figuring out where the center and its programs stand and she spoke of locating some funds in accounts they have no records and that they’ve started creating files and organizing the contents of boxes filled with papers and documents scattered around haphazardly, some of them, containing essential documents, left by the shredder.

“This is the work we have to do first,” Davis said. “Right now, no CPA or attorney is going to help us because everything is so scattered.”

She said they need basic systems in place so that when an auditor asks for something, staff can lay their hands on it without having to dig through box after box. And even though some monies have been located, Davis said center finances will stay locked until they have the programs and systems in place to properly document and account for the expenditures.

The freeze, Davis said, also creates a wall between the administration that was and the administration now being built.

She said that since officially starting as interim CEO April one, most of her time has been spent in consultation with the many organizations that provide or help fund programs and services the center offers as well as those agencies, including the IRS, that monitor and enforce regulatory compliance.

“Yes, I contacted the IRS,” she said. “I’d much prefer that if they decide to drop in, they know what we’re faced with and what we’re doing. I’d rather they come to help than to enforce.”

She affirmed that there is an investigation underway, but said she did not know details and could not speak about it.

As the meeting progressed, the chill present at the outset thawed. Questions segued from accusatory to helpful. A detailed discussion was held on the dismal state of the center’s computers and Linda Lederhos, the “L” in EL Internet Northwest gave a few specifications to make sure they’d be suitable and could be used, Misha almost broke into tears saying “yes” and Linda promised to bring them in. At the recommendation of those in attendance, a donation jar was put out.

Before the meeting adjourned, people were hopeful. Talking and smiling, It was clear that the path laid out by Davis won’t be easy and it can’t be traversed in a day or a week or a month. Davis estimates four months. And people began participating, becoming part of the solution, offering suggestions and ideas, becoming participants instead of onlookers. A number offered to pitch in and help, some offered to reach out to friends and acquaintances to enlist help from people with the requisite skills that will be needed. An air of optimism crept in.

Some may have wondered about Misha’s demeanor at times. She appeared fidgety, antsy. Momentarily distracted. Based on all the rumors and accusations and hearsay that swirled behind her like a pall the preceding week, there could be those who see in her bearing confirmation of their darkest suspicions. If so, you can disabuse yourself the notion … two hours in fashionable footwear on a concrete floor … on a foot she believes she’d broken earlier in the day.

To learn more, email or call (208) 267-5553.