United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley will fund 29 local agencies in the upcoming fiscal year, but two organizations are noticeably absent from the list.
Urban League of Columbus and the Columbus Community Center, two agencies that have been struggling in recent years, will both lose their United Way funding this year, according to a news release issued Friday announcing the organization’s FY2018 funding allocations.
Despite the elimination of those agencies, the United Way will fund 58 programs in the upcoming fiscal year, investing a total of $5.25 million in the community, according to the news release. The funding recommendations were presented to the United Way Board of Directors by community volunteers who reviewed applications and conducted site visits.
Scott Ferguson, president and CEO of the local United Way, said the Columbus Community Center has been unable to raise significant funds to make the agency viable. He said the organization has been trying to get certification from the state to charge for its after-school program, to no avail, and lack of finances remains an issue.
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The Urban League, which regained United Way funding last year after several years of instability, performed poorly during a recent site visit, Ferguson said, and volunteers decided not to recommend the organization for funding.
The Community Center received $65,000 from the United Way last year, and the Urban League received $10,000 as part of a new small venture grant program.
“Both of these agencies, the Community Center and the Urban League, we want them to be successful, we want to invest in their programs,” he said. “We are willing to help their boards, their staffs. We can’t manage the agencies, but we can continue to provide technical assistance.”
Susan Cooper served as interim president and CEO of the Urban League the past year and was recently hired to the permanent position. In a statement released to the Ledger-Enquirer on Friday, she said the Urban League and United Way “remain committed partners.”
“Although they did not approve the funding for this particular program, Summer Youth Employment, we still very much believe in the program and its merits and are excited about our opportunity to hire 50 youth for (the program) instead of the targeted 100 that this grant would have allowed,” she wrote. “... We have to build a better case and make a stronger presentation next year and we look forward to the opportunity to do just that.
“I had to apply for eligibility three times before we were approved (last year,)” she continued. “We will keep moving, simply repackage our grant request and apply again each year.”
Ferguson said a third agency, Stewart Community Home Inc., will receive $150,000 less than last year due to concerns about sustainability. He said funding for the organization, which provides housing for homeless people with mental disabilities, will decrease from $250,000 to $100,000.
“The volunteers that reviewed them had concerns because they do have strong reserves, but in the last two years they’ve spent about half of those, which is about $700,000,” he said. “And it’s not a good business model, for anybody.
“Our staff will continue to work very closely with them and their board to develop metrics and measures to make sure that they regain their financial stability,” he said. “... They serve a vulnerable population that nobody else serves. So I think that’s why we’re continuing to make an investment - smaller, but an investment in time and money to help them turn that ship around.
“They still have significant reserves,” he said. “We just have to find a way to help them stop losing money.”
The Ledger-Enquirer couldn’t reach representatives from Stewart Community Home or the Columbus Community Center on Friday for comment.
Agencies receiving the most United Way funding for FY2018 are:
- Easter Seals West Georgia, Inc. — $594,000
- Boys and Girls Club of the Chattahoochee Valley — $504,000
- The Family of Columbus — $499,000
- Girls Inc. of Columbus — $443,750
Several new programs also were approved for funding this year, including:
- BRIDGE of Columbus for a program that helps young adults improve their literacy skills to earn a GED.
- MercyMed Dentistry for a program providing affordable dental care to the under-served.
- Oxbow Meadows Life and Environmental Science Enrichment Program for a STEM based program for Title 1 schools
- Southeastern Vet to Vet for counseling and peer support to veterans as they renter civilian life.