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United Fund Part 4: Investing in the community

Jeff Huber and Brett Montague • Sep 19, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Editor’s note: Representatives from the Norwalk Area United Fund are writing columns in preparation for the organization's annual fundraising campaign.

The United Fund evaluates each and every request for funding received to ensure that donated funds are being put to good use. We have written about the Budget and Admissions process at length in the past. After our extensive review process has been completed, what are we investing in?

To receive campaign funds an organization must be registered as a non-profit entity with the IRS. The United Fund does not provide direct financial help to individuals. We leave that to the organizations that specialize in meeting the needs of our neighbors. Instead, donated funds are directed into three categories: Education, Health and Improving Communities.

Educational programs are the foundation of future success. Funds provided to Reach Our Youth, KinderCasa and the Norwalk Childcare Center help to develop the next generation of productive citizens. The Age Exchange program run by Senior Enrichment Services breaks down generational barriers while providing mentoring to the young and opportunities for seniors to interact with at-risk youth. The United Fund’s 1, 2, 3 Read to Me initiative places shelves in public areas so everyone can have access to free books.

Funds provided to Cancer Services and the Kidney Foundation provide invaluable assistance to those in our communities that are facing a medical crisis. The Adult Advocacy program run by Catholic Charities ensures that vulnerable adults are cared for and financially stable. The Salvation Army’s Summer Youth Feeding Program makes certain that children have access to nutritional meals when school is out of session. Meals on Wheels offers the same to a broader population. All are examples of health-related programs.

Improving Communities offers the broadest range of funding opportunities. The Miriam House (Catholic Charities), Community Emergency Services (Catholic Charities), Norwalk Emergency Shelter (Erie-Huron-Richland CAC) and Social Services program (Salvation Army) give stability, hope and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. Disaster Services and Service to the Armed Forces are programs run by the American Red Cross that serve residents in times of extraordinary need. Senior Transportation provided by Senior Enrichment Services helps our elder community members maintain their independence.

The United Fund has many decades worth of experience with all of these legacy programs. However, we are not content to simply repeat the process each year. The United Fund continually assesses the needs of our area and challenge ourselves and the organizations we support to do more. Programs that were needed and relevant 10 years ago are not necessarily relevant today. Grant funds allow us to target support to the emerging needs of our communities and to provide immediate assistance when disaster strikes.

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