United Way gives out $1M for needs in Clark, Champaign counties

More than $1 million will be distributed to more than 50 agencies in Clark, Champaign and Madison counties from money collected by the local United Way.

The United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties will distribute about $30,000 more than last year.

“We are so pleased with the fact that we have been able to fund at a higher level than we have in the past and even introduce new programming,” United Way Executive Director Kerry Pedraza said.

Nearly 6,500 people in the three counties pledged money to the United Way. Money collected in a county stays in that county, Pedraza said, so donors support local organizations and programs.

“We make sure that a donor’s dollar is accountable for,” she said.

The United Way also will for the first time in its local history set aside more than $26,000 in a fund to respond to community needs that arise throughout the year, such as a new organization.

The more than $1 million allocated will fund a spectrum of programs through nonprofit agencies in the three communities. United Way’s three pillars focus on health, education and income but programs such as literacy and kindergarten readiness, credit counseling services and strengthening hospice service are also included this year.

Some of the nonprofits in Clark and Champaign counties that will receive the most funds for the year work in their communities to combat homelessness and hunger.

Interfaith Hospitality Network was started in Springfield in 1990 after its founder recognized a need to help the homeless in the city and Clark County.

The network, which operates family and individual homeless shelters in the community, now serves more than 1,000 people a year with its daily and emergency shelters.

This year IHN will receive $91,500 from the United Way.

“It’s critical that we have the funding available to provide the services we do in the community,” IHN Executive Director Elaina Bradley said.

A majority of the United Way money will go toward operating costs at the IHN family, single mother and men’s shelters, Bradley said.

This year $7,500 also will be spent to sustain a case manager at the IHN Mulberry Terrace facility, which is a permanent-living residence for people transitioning out of homelessness. Mulberry Terrace works with the Rocking Horse Center to also provide residents medical and psychological care, Bradley said.

Homelessness and hunger in Champaign County will also be served through $30,000 given to the Caring Kitchen.

The homeless shelter and soup kitchen, 300 Miami St. in Urbana, served more than 142,000 hot meals to those in need and sheltered 160 people who had no where to go in 2015.

“We’re in an amazing community that supports us more than we can hope for,” said Edie Kastl, secretary and treasurer for the organization.

The Champaign County community not only benefits from money allocated to charities by United Way, but also the organization’s 2-1-1 emergency line, which connects people in need with the appropriate services they’re looking for, Kastl said.

The 2-1-1 line has allowed Caring Kitchen to reach people who might not have known about their work before, she said.

More than 60 programs will be funded from United Way money raised in the 2015 campaign, Pedraza said.

United Way uses community health assessments, meets with local leaders and uses data collected in communities to determine where money is needed.

For example this year in Madison County, one of the 14 nonprofits receiving United Way money is a mental health services group that will support the recovery of addicts as the region is experiencing a crisis of addiction, Pedraza said.

United Way will kick off its 2016 fundraising campaign on Sept. 10, Pedraza said, with a large event, Community Challenge.

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