United Way to allocate $700,000 to over 50 organizations in the area

More than 50 agencies operating in Clark and Champaign Counties will receive close to $700,000 in money collected by the local United Way.

The United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties annual fundraising campaign wrapped up last spring and generated a little more than $1 million in donations. Now that money is going back into the community as its partner agencies received a part of their portions in July.

“Our fiscal year starts in July. So our partners get a one-twelfth of their funding every month,” said United Way Executive Director Kerry Pedraza.

She said most of their partner agencies offer services that fall under the categories of health, education and income. Money allocated this year will fund a spectrum of programs administered by nonprofit and governmental agencies in the area. Some seek to tackle community issues such as child and adult illiteracy, homelessness and hunger.

Pedraza said her organization uses community health assessments, meets with local leaders and uses data collected in communities to determine where money is needed.

By next summer, 36 agencies in Clark County will receive $565,784 that will fund 41 community programs and 16 agencies in Champaign County will receive $132,000 that will go towards 17 programs, according to data provided by the local United Way.

In addition to that, $172,132 will be distributed to several programs operated directly by the United Way including Helplink 2-1-1 — a phone service that provides callers with information about hospitals, doctors and the nearest food pantry— and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends one free book per month to young children.

Pedraza said agencies partnered with or programs funded by her organization can change each year. She said it just depends on what those agencies’ needs are, which are highlighted in their grant proposals.

She said some partners have received funding for decades while for others it’s their first time. One of those new organizations is Autumn Trails Stable that offers therapeutic riding for both children and adults. It is slated to receive $2,000 from the United Way for the first time, which will go towards paying an instructor, said the Autumn Trails Executive Director Angela Stan.

She said her organization works with clients who have special needs and offers an eight-week cycle of lessons in the fall, winter and summer. The organization currently has two volunteer instructors and one in training and hopes to start paying them on a regular basis in the next two years.

Stan said the money from the United Way is a start as instructors not only guide riders during sessions but they also craft lesson plans. She said Autumn Stables have on average 30 students a week, who often participate in multiple eight-week lesson cycles throughout the year.

Pedraza said the amount of money given to each of its partners depends on how much they request and what the United Way is able to raise the previous year. She said donors can give money to a specific nonprofit or request that it be used in a particular county.

She said more people are making donations —mostly through their places of work— but are giving less, which causes the amount of money allocated each year to fluctuate.

“We can only give out as much as we bring in. We are very careful not to over obligate. Every dollar is important because it is invested in those nonprofits that provide essential services in the community,”Pedraza said.

Second Harvest Food Bank in Clark County, which has been a United Way partner for years, will receive an increase of $2,500 in funding this year that will help pay for the collection and storage of an estimated 5.5 million pounds of food over a course of one year, said its Executive Director Tyra Jackson.

She said her organization will receive $45,000 from the United Way in increments ending on July 1, 2020. She said that money pays for storage and transportation costs for the pantry that serves 35,000 people each year.

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