United Way shortfall hurts several local agencies

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Several local organizations are feeling the effects of a United Way fundraising campaign shortfall.

After raising only $1.1 million of its $1.4 million goal, the United Way of the River Cities has reduced funding to several programs and organizations including 10 in Lawrence County.

“There are some organizations that will be seeing a reduction in funds,” said Laura Gilliam, executive director of the United Way of the River Cities. Gilliam explained that the United Way evaluates each organization’s grant application every year.

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The organizations do not always get all the money they request from the United Way. Grant commitments are made with the expectation of reaching the campaign goal and because it raised about 80 percent of that goal, several United Way partners will not receive as much funding as they were expecting.

The funding reductions followed a careful examination of each grant request, Gilliam said. United Way priorities and additional funding sources were taken into account.

“These decisions came after great deliberation by the volunteers,” she said.

The City Welfare Mission was expecting $37,450 in funding and will receive $33,705 instead.

“We were blessed that it was only 10 percent,” said Rev. Jeff Cremeans, director of the mission.

Though the United Way reviews each funding application every year, the mission had been receiving the same amount for the past several years.

Funding from the United Way contributes to the mission’s meals, clothing distribution and rent and utilities assistance programs. The mission will probably have a longer waiting list for rent assistance services now so that it can spread out the funding, Cremeans said.

“We may make some changes but there are no plans for cutting services,” he said.

The Chesapeake Community Center had expected $5,000 from the United Way and will be receiving $2,500.

“Well of course it’s going to hurt,” said Ruth Damron, director of the community center. “Any cutting of funds hurts. Something has to drop by the wayside. (We) haven’t fully given it thought. It may mean more fundraising.”

She added that the center would have to find a way to come up with the rest of the funds.

The center has a staff of mostly volunteers and five paid employees.

“That cut is going to hurt,” she said. “We’ll manage. It’s been cut before and we’ve managed.”

Other reductions will be made to a prescription drug program in Lawrence County. In the past, the program had been a part of Jobs and Family Services. The Ironton-Lawrence County CAO is taking it over this year. The CAO had applied for $10,000 in United Way funding and been approved for $5,000. Because of budget cuts it will be receiving $4,500.

Other Lawrence County organizations that are receiving a reduction include the Girl Scouts Kentucky Wilderness Road, which will receive $5,000 after been originally approved for $10,000.

The council receives funding from 11 United Ways for its work in 66 Kentucky counties and Lawrence County, Wendy Henry, communications director for GSKWRC, said in a written statement.

“While Girl Scout program benefits align with United Way focus areas, Girl Scouts is not seen as a critical need in the community,” Henry said. “National research has shown that out-of-school programs increase students’ achievement in school, and safe, structured activities help avoid risky behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drugs abuse and teenage pregnancy.”

The Girls Scouts membership dues have increased, which added to the organizations woes.

“GSKWRC has committed substantial effort and resources to serving low-income girls, but the membership dues and financial assistance increases coupled with decreases in United Way funding are threatening our ability to deliver these programs to the most at-risk girls in our service area, including Lawrence County, Ohio,” Henry said.

Boy Scouts Simon Kenton Council had been approved for $12,400 along with $5,500 for a fitness program and $5,000 for a drug prevention program. With the reductions, the Boy Scouts will instead be receiving $10,000 and $4,250 for its drug prevention program and $4,675 for its fitness program.

The Lawrence County Special Olympics had been approved for $1,600 and now will not receive funding from the United Way.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross had been approved for $147,000 and will receive $119,325 instead.

Besides making reductions in funding, the United Way has also cut its own budget and accessed funds that had been set aside for severe economic downturns in order to make up the campaign short fall.

“We’ve taken a look at travel, conference expenses, supplies and other expenses,” Gilliam said. “We’ve taken a look at that and have cut back significantly on those things.”

The organization typically raises its funds through workplace campaigns. With some industries experience a reduction in workers due to layoffs, those contributions have also seen a reduction.

With that in mind, Gilliam said the organization hopes to reach out to individuals instead of just workplaces. They also plan to make workplace campaigns available anytime after May instead of having them only in the fall.

Over the years, the United Way has had goals that have gone unmet, but none recently that have been missed by this large a margin.

“This is probably the first time in several years that we’ve been this far away from reaching the goal,” Gilliam said. “I think it’s a reflection of the economic downturn that the country has been facing.”

Representatives for the Boy Scouts Kenton Council, the Lawrence County Special Olympics and the American Red Cross could not be reached for comment.