By Jim Frankenfield, Director

The Avalanche Center became somewhat semi-dormant in 2013-14, but it is not shut down and will hopefully be more active this season, to the degree that resources permit.

This blog entry will explain the situation, both the status of the center and the personal (personnel) reasons behind the break in activity. Our first email update, and perhaps subsequent ones, will mention this but not go into all the details. We will refer anyone interested to this post for the details.

In a nutshell I (the director) made a last minute decision in September of 2013 to remain in Tbilisi, Georgia to teach school. While various people have made significant contributions over the years the center relies heavily on my efforts. In addition to a reduction in the amount of my time which was available there was also the issue of maintaining the US infrastructure - the office and store in particular.

Before expanding on this I'd like to add, above the "fold" here, that expenses continued while little fundraising effort was made. As of November 2014 the center has a debt of $1200 to me personally and barely enough cash on hand for another month of hosting and other basic costs. So please think about making a contribution if you can!

Background - Personal Move to Tbilisi

I spent the summer of 2013 based in Tbilisi, Georgia to explore the region and the Caucasus mountains. At the end of the summer I responded to a note on Facebook looking for a math teacher for a new international school. They had found one but needed a science teacher, preferable part time. At about this same time I also saw an ad for a Physics lecturer at International Black Sea University (IBSU). And they sent my email on to another private school (Chaglar) they are affiliated with, which decided they could use a physics teacher also. So I decided to stay in Tbilisi and teach - initially at two private international schools part time and also IBSU for one course.

The details of how this worked out are beyond the scope of this blog entry for the most part, but Chaglar turned out to be more of a day care center than a school, and not even a good one at that. Students at IBSU were even worse, and the pay was about what I could make with three private English students for an hour a week each. During the holidays Chaglar informed by email they no longer wanted a physics teacher (or SAT review, which they never understood to begin with). The IBSU class ran through January as I continued giving students an endless supply or make-up or retry exams as required by the school. By the end of January I was settled into one school full time, where I am now continuing to teach (various combinations of physics, math, chemistry and general science). But it was a hectic year with limited time for the Avalanche Center.

So what did all this mean for the Avalanche Center?

Well, this was all entirely unplanned and unexpected to begin with. There was still an office and a store operation based in the US. And no way to close that up and move things out. So throughout last season we continued to have to pay for this. Expenses were reduced by subletting part of the space for most of the year, although there were a few months when this was not possible.

There was also no reliable help in the US. Until December a guy who was subletting space would occasionally take care of things like mailing items and retrieving our mail which could be forwarded to me in Georgia, via a cost effective private company called usa2georgia. Unfortunately, despite being a community college teacher he was not the most competent individual. Packages were returned a couple times and our Oregon non-profit status lapsed because he missed that piece of mail. (The state was happy to reinstate this, for a fee of course. All it takes is money.)

Over the holiday break I did get back to Oregon but had only enough time to clean up the mess and get a new guy started. This one stayed until June and had a trade to use some of the space there in return for handling avalanche center business. Remaining space was still sublet, covering most of the local expenses. This guy was a college senior and made a good effort but had a way of disappearing from the world for days or even weeks. Which hindered out ability to do things like auction store items on ebay.

Back in Georgia I was doing my best to keep the web side of things running but was very limited in time. Until the holiday break my three jobs were spread out from one end of the city to the other (and it's a long city, following a river.) At one point in about February the US incidents were brought up to date, which was not too hard since it had been a dry year. Unfortunately after that many thin snowpacks were loaded with heavy new snow and there were many more incidents.

What's Next

As of December 2014 I am back in Tbilisi teaching. And hoping the school survives. This is our second year and it is struggling to get off the ground. However, I am only at one school at this point so I have already been able to work on reviving the Avalanche Center.

More information on what has been done will be the subject of other entries, but a lot of it has been background work. So at this point there is nothing great and new. A programming error log was found that pointed to a lot of errors to fix. Logs have been archived and last years server stats finalized. Webpages have been scanned for bad links and repaired. Basically tedious work that takes time and is not noticed but needs to be done.

This year a more concerted effort will be made to keep the Incidents section up and to catch up on missing entries from the past couple years. The online course programs will hopefully be further promoted and developed along with other Educational resources. And we will hopefully be active (but not overactive) on social media.

There are still expenses to cover and we will need donations, as always. The amount for a membership will be decreased (and the programming for member features will be improved a bit). We are on no position to run an auction any more but we have another fun script for raising funds we may try. I once had an email from a guy angry about having to support the project to access certain extras. He wrote to me that it was my responsibility to find funding for this and that he should not be asked to donate anything. I already donate a lot of time and effort, and at the moment I have a $1000 loan out to the avalanche center that needs to be repaid. I am not working at a high-end school which bills embassies and corporations, we are struggling to survive and our students who are all from the region are not from wealthy families. So I am not in a position to underwrite this financially. So to continue our non-profit work and stay online we really do need your help - lots of small contributions add up and do make a difference!

Stay tuned for more updates on exactly what is happening in the coming weeks.