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Westmoreland United Way, Salvation Army sever ties

| Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 11:42 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
With Salvation Army divisional secretary Major Robert Kramer, left, and Dr. Mitch Nickols, pastor of Bibleway Christian Fellowship Church in New Kensingon in the background, New Kensington Salvation Army Corps officer Major Elvie Carter announces that the New Kensington Salvation Army will disaffiliate from the Westmoreland County United Way on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

The Salvation Army of Westmoreland County won't get any more money from United Way.

And that could mean bad news for the 500 families and 2,000 individuals in the New Kensington and Vandergrift areas served by Salvation Army programs funded by United Way dollars.

Salvation Army officials announced on Tuesday that the groups severed ties, citing sharply declining support from United Way and a requirement to file reports with the Internal Revenue Service as reasons for the break.

United Way funding dropped from $300,000 in 2000 to about $10,000 offered for one program this year, as long as the Salvation Army meets application requirements.

“They really cut ties with us,” said Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania divisional Commander Major William Bode at its New Kensington Worship and Service Center.

It and the Vandergrift service center were the only locations in Westmoreland County being funded by the United Way.

The other service centers and units ended their relationships with the United Way as funding from the agency dried up, said Salvation Army spokeswoman Donna Fencik.

The Salvation Army of Westmoreland County consists of five worship and service centers, four service centers and eleven service units.

In New Kensington, programs funded by United Way include comprehensive and emergency services that provide help with utilities, mortgage payments and emergency food and clothing as well as youth tutoring, mentoring and after-school programs.

Additionally, more than 20,000 people in Westmoreland County received food assistance.

“The loss of United Way dollars will have an impact on that,” said Major Robert Kramer, the Salvation Army's Westmoreland County Coordinator. “We will seek it from our community.”

The Salvation Army is reaching out to donors to try to make up the loss of United Way money.

“The programs and the needs in all of the Salvation Army's communities still need to be met,” said Major Elvie Carter, who runs the New Kensington and Vandergrift centers.

“We have people who are still coming in, the need is still high; we have youth we serve on a daily basis; educational, spiritual, character building programs and social service needs within all of our Salvation Army community.”

The Rev. Mitch Nickols, a member of the Salvation Army advisory board and pastor of Bibleway Christian Fellowship Church in New Kensington, said it's important that the Salvation Army continue to have a community presence.

“The Salvation Army is critical to what we do in this community,” he said.

Salvation Army officials said the relationship with the United Way of Westmoreland County was further strained by requirements for an external audit and now a mandate to complete a Form 990.

The IRS form is required to be completed annually by nonprofits, but churches, as the Salvation Army is classified, are exempt.

“The Salvation Army is not required by law (to file a 990) and it was not a problem, we've had great relationships. But now they're requiring us to have it and we just aren't able to do it,” said Carter.

An external audit required by the United Way costs about $7,000, Salvation Army officials said.

Bobbi Watt Geer, president and CEO of the United Way of Westmoreland County, said for the past 10 years they've required all entities applying for funding to complete a 990 form.

“It provides information on how the organization is operated,” she said.

The United Way of Westmoreland County provided about $54,000 to the New Kensington and Vandergrift Salvation Army center during the past several years. The figure represents 12 percent of the centers' budgets.

This year, Bode said the United Way advised them that the New Kensington center would receive $10,000 for one program in 2014-15.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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