The Herald Bulletin

December 1, 2013

United Way's impact goes beyond basic needs

By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — While one major goal of the United Way of Madison County is to prevent families from falling into crisis, another is to meet the basic needs of people already experiencing hard times.

Their needs are addressed through the provision of food, emergency shelter, utility assistance, rent assistance, clothing assistance, financial assistance with medical needs and a 211 hotline.

“The United Way funding helps with our food distribution in our tailgate program that feeds hungry residents of Madison County,” said Tim Kean, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. “We are even able to provide fresh produce, which is normally one of the things people who are struggling have to cut out of their diet because of its cost.”

Once a month (and occasionally twice a month), 900-1,000 families receive, collectively, 20,000-30,000 pounds of food. “That means we are impacting 3,000 people, 30-35 percent of whom are children,” Kean noted.

Other agencies are also distributing help, through funds earmarked for basic-needs support, such as area churches, the Salvation Army, the St. Vincent DePaul Society and Dove Harbor. A shared database tracks services to avoid duplication.

Money issued to the Salvation Army is used in a variety of ways, case by case. The Pathway of Hope program helps people learn to use their financial resources wisely, including housing and budgeting.

“We use United Way funding to remove any obstacle in the way of someone completing the program,” said Capt. Dennis Marak, Salvation Army case officer/pastor. “If a mother is having trouble with childcare while at a class or gas getting to class or needs rent assistance or utility assistance, we step in.”

Ongoing counseling can include parenting skills, solving family issues, securing employment and solving workplace issues.

“This is a great program – we are giving tools to families that are struggling,” said Marak. “People are enjoying the program. We can give direction to help them, but it is up to the people in the program to do the things that help themselves.”

Dove Harbor, which provides transitional housing for women, also offers self-help courses to residents.

“One of the grants we receive is a self-sufficiency grant,” said Cherilyn Horning, program manager at Dove Harbor. “It allows us to offer basic money management, employment readiness, practical hands-on skills and personal appearance tips to help them become employed or more appropriately employed for their skills and education level.”

Sometimes, funds are paid directly to the utility company, as agencies work with qualifying clients who have fallen behind on their bils. Small food pantries and clothing pantries also benefit from United Way allocations to help meet the basic needs of residents.

While some agencies and programs serve only those in certain income brackets, no income restrictions are imposed to receive food from the Second Harvest Food Bank tailgate distributions.

“We want no barriers to restrict people from access to food,” said Kean. “Many folks get there several hours in advance. That’s a testament to the need in our community.”

Latest in a series This is the latest in a series of weekly articles, being published Mondays, about the impact of United Way programs in Madison County. How to give To contribute to the United Way's campaign: -- Visit www.unitedwaymadisonco.org -- Call 643-7493