The Johnny Carson Foundation provides assistance with transit services in Norfolk

Efforts to resume public transit services in Norfolk have received a huge boost.

The Johnny Carson Foundation has agreed to provide a $500,000 Matching Grant to North Fork Area Transit as a way to help eliminate the agency’s existing debt and provide funds for sustainability. Funds from the Carson Foundation will be made available if $500,000 can be raised through local fundraising efforts from January 31 to February 28, 2023.

The announcement was made Friday morning in a North Fork Area Transit news release.

“We are very grateful to the Johnny Carson Foundation for this support. We now hope that Norfolk and area businesses, organizations and individuals will help raise the necessary matching funds,” said Corinne Donahue of the Nebraska Department of Transportation Mobility Management Team.

The financial problems facing North Fork Area Transit, which is a non-profit entity, came to light last month with the discovery of financial irregularities and missing funds. Due to financial problems, all transit services were suspended earlier this month.

Since then, North Fork Area Transit members have taken steps to improve financial guarantees by working closely with the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Mobility Management team and also securing the services of a Norfolk CPA firm.

“We want nothing more than to rebuild the trust that has been lost and get back to providing the transportation services that so many senior citizens, disabled people, school children, corporate employees and others need,” Donahue said.

To that end, the North Fork Area Transit Board has added three new members to strengthen board work and reform practices where needed.

The three new board members are: Jan Einspahr, local attorney; Rob Merrill, former Norfolk City Council member and small business owner; and Chuck Waite, co-owner/manager of Graham Tire.

Donahue said the transit agency has about $590,000 in debt and unpaid bills it needs to resolve. If the entire $1 million can be raised through the Carson Foundation and local donations, the remaining funds will go towards ensuring sustainability once services resume.

Those wishing to help the transit agency with donations can deposit checks at any Elkhorn Valley Bank location or use Venmo for donations at @northforktransit.

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