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Nonprofits' needs greater than ever

January 18, 2009|By ADDIE STAEBLER

When I started with United Way, I thought I knew what our partner agencies did. After all, I grew up with a best friend whose aunts ran CASA. Who doesn't know what Hospice does? The Red Cross takes care of people whose house catches fire. And Goodwill, well, they have that store.

Knowing that I wanted to be able to speak on an expert level about all of our partner agencies when out campaigning, I spent my first weeks at United Way meeting with each of the agencies. And the lessons learned proved to me that well, I actually didn't know anything at all.

All of the programs that United Way dollars fund are relevant to the concerns within our community, but the importance that some serve in our current economic times are simply immeasurable.

For example, the mission of Horizon Goodwill Industries is to help people with special needs and barriers to employment improve their quality of life through work and related services. The people whom they serve have persistent and chronic obstacles toward full-time employment.

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The program that the United Way helps to fund is the Parent Employment Program (PEP). This is geared toward families wherein the parent cannot hold down steady employment. To me, in this time when it's hard to find employment if you have no disabilities, doing it with a disability must seem like an impossible venture.

In a subsequent visit to Horizon Goodwill before the holidays, I had the chance to chat with the one of their employees, Rodney Rose.

Knowing how difficult it has been for us to raise money this year, I am always interested in hearing how all the other nonprofits are making out.

But here's the thing about Horizon Goodwill; they have all of the thrift shops and they do contractual work with other companies, making them fairly self-sufficient. So I didn't necessarily expect the same story the rest of us are sharing.

Rodney informed me that the number of people going through the PEP program has risen 50 percent over the past six months. So with the same level of funding, and the same amount of staff (two people to be exact), they are doing 50 percent more work.

OK, those statistics aren't great. But surely the thrift store must be one of the most popular places in town now, right?

Rodney explained that people are holding onto their belongings longer, putting them in worse shape when the store gets them, thus making them unsellable. And let's face it, people shop that store for a deal on quality items, not threadbare ones.

But here's the thing: No matter how many people show up on their doorstep needing help finding a job, as long as they have some type of barrier, Horizon Goodwill Industries is committed to helping them. Just like, no matter how many people go to Food Resources; no matter how many people call the Red Cross; no matter how many kids need to go to Memorial Recreation, the Boys and Girls Club or Girls, Inc., if they meet the agency requirements, they'll be taken care of.

Because not one nonprofit has a mission that says that they will serve their population as long as they feel like it, or the economy is good, or everyone has a job, etc. They will do whatever they have to and serve the people that need.

We have been so fortunate to get the donations that we have so far this year. We live in a very generous community. The people who have given have given what they could. But we are facing a shortfall. So if you have not given yet, please consider giving to United Way. So we can make sure that every person who applies for the PEP program, or needs food on their table, or needs a ride to the doctor, or needs health care can receive it, until we can all get back on our feet.

Addie Staebler is Resource Development & Campaign director for the United Way of Washington County.

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