ANDERSON, Ind. — Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment of a weekly series about the many services that the United Way of Madison County provides.
As needs are on the rise, relief funds are becoming more difficult to secure. For many years the United Way has enjoyed a national partnership with FEMA that has allowed the organization to help people in crisis meet their basic needs. Unfortunately, the funds that are typically released in January of each year still have not made their way to local coffers.
“We have been doing without,” said Nancy Vaughan, president. “We have been waiting all year but are hopeful we will get it soon.”
Reasons for the delay have not been provided.
“The hardest part is to hear someone desperate on the phone and have to say that no one can help them,” she added. “It is happening more and more. This is the time of year when we traditionally get more of these kinds of calls.”
The United Way of Madison County has found fundraising more difficult since the departure of General Motors. A delay of government funds only compounds the problem. Still, utility assistance for qualifying residents are being met through a system that allows a variety of community partners to access necessary funds.
“Instead of giving money to one agency, many can tap into those funds,” Vaughan said. “We use a data base so we are not duplicating services, but this way we don’t ask people to qualify over and over.”
Funds are paid directly to the utility company as agencies work with qualifying clients. Due to extraordinary need, this program has already spent 40 percent more money than was spent at this point last year.
In addition to utility assistance, the United Way of Madison County works with Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana to meet residents’ need for food.
“We’ve been partners with the United Way for decades,” said Tim Kean, president and CEO of the organization. “One program they help with is the tailgate program. During the last four years we have started offering fresh produce. We feel good about that. It is making an impact on people’s diets by giving access to nutritious food.”
This direct distribution program connects needy people with a semitrailer loaded with food at an advertised location. Eight hundred to 1,000 families line up each month to load the 30,000 pounds of food into their cars. No income restrictions are imposed.
“We want no barriers to restrict people from access to food,” Kean said. “Many folks get there several hours in advance — and sometimes people spend the night. That’s a testament to the need that is in our community.”