Local United Way campaign at 15 percent
A sluggish start to the annual United Way fund-raising campaign has organizers concerned about funding for local health and human service agency programs - some unable to provide aid to individuals and families in need throughout Indiana County.
'We have programs, clients and families on hold because we don't have the money to fund programs,' said Priscilla Sissem, executive director of the Center for Family Life Inc., a child abuse prevention agency. 'These people are at the crisis stage when they get here.'
At just $115,000, or 15 percent, raised for the annual capital campaign for the United Way of Indiana County, fund-raising organizers are concerned about meeting their $777,777 - up $50,000 from last year - and about the financial needs of 21 local agencies it aids.
'With the emphasis on the United Way collecting for the September 11th Fund, the programs here in Indiana County may not get the money needed,' said Patti Simmons, executive director of the local United Way. 'We are encouraging people to please give above that (the September 11th Fund) to our annual campaign. Maybe we can get people who have never donated to United Way to donate now.'
She expects to mail a check this week to the September 11th Fund for about $36,000 from the people of Indiana County.
Simmons said the United Way Cabinet meets on Tuesday and she is hoping to hear that pledges have increased.
To encourage giving, those donating $2.50 a week, or $130 year, will have their names placed in a drawing for one of three prizes: new vehicle, a Caribbean cruise or $100 a month in groceries for a year.
'People giving to the United Way right here in Indiana County will have the chance to win those prizes,' Simmons said.
Another way people can support local agencies is by visiting the United Way Days booth at Fezell's Shop 'N Save all this week to buy grilled hot dogs, chips and drinks.
Money raised now will be allocated in March, Simmons said. Among those agencies that may feel a financial pinch is The Center for Family Life at 125 North Fifth St.
Next year will be the first time the center is scheduled to receive United Way funding.
The center has seven parent educators on staff to conduct and supervise programs aimed at preventing child abuse through parent education and supervised visits that are ordered by the court, Sissem said.
Subcontracted and partly funded through the Indiana County Children and Youth Services, the center has seen a 42 percent increase in its supervised visits since 1999, Sissem said, describing the center as the prevention arm of children and youth services.
'We work with a few hundred families per month. We have split-up families, situations where grandparents want custody, or there is fear of abduction or a threat of abuse,' she said. 'We supervise the visits between parents and children. Children need both parents. It's proven and documented that children do better with both parents. Our goal is the restoration of healthy families.'
Some of the parent education provided by the center takes place at Indiana County Jail, with weekly sessions held separately for groups of men and women inmates. 'What we hear from them is that they miss their children,' Sissem said.
The United Way helps fund agencies that serve young and old. They include: The Salvation Army, Indiana Chapter of the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Open Door, Alice Paul House, Girl Scouts of Talus Rock Council, Boy Scouts of Penns Woods Council, Big Brothers/Sisters, Camp Orenda, Camp Sunrise, Chevy Chase Community Center, Indiana County Association of the Blind, Indiana County Head Start, Indiana County Child Day Care, Indiana County Head Start, Visiting Nurse Association, United Cerebral Palsy, Indiana County YMCA, Multiple Sclerosis Service Society and Carenet.
'The allocation of United Way funds is 12 percent of our budget,' said Maj. Dorothy Zander, co-administrator and co-pastor of The Salvation Army corps in Indiana.
The funding supports community outreach programs for the Salvation Army's food pantry in Indiana, tutorial programs for kindergarten through ninth-graders, summer day camp, a residential camp, family services, which include programs for senior citizens and character-building for youth emergency assistance.
The local Salvation Army serves about 14,000 people through its various community programs, up from 11,000 the year before, according to spokeswoman Denice Conner.
Some people come to The Salvation Army, located at 635 Water St., every Wednesday for a meal. 'There are anywhere from 35 to 40 people who come,' Conner said. 'Some are families, most are senior citizens.'
The United Way is headquartered in the North Fourth Street Plaza. Its fund-raising campaign runs until the second week of January 2002. Donations may be sent to United Way of Indiana County, 470 Route 119 North, Indiana PA 15701.