United Way gives more than $900,000 to community programs
The United Way of the Laurel Highlands has sent $991,600 in grants and investments back into communities in Somerset and Cambria counties.
The 2019 grants were awarded to 21 partner agencies in both counties during a ceremony Wednesday at the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service and National Competitiveness at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
The nonprofit distributed the funding from its 2018 campaign, which nearly reached its goal of $1.3 million. Those funds have been meted out to continue to create social change in three core initiatives: preparing all children socially, emotionally and academically for kindergarten; increasing parental knowledge of child development and care; and preventing substance abuse among youth, according to the organization’s incoming board chairwoman, Pamela Tokar-Ickes.
The event spotlighted a five-year collaborative partnership with the 1889 Foundation with a video and speech by the foundation’s president, Sue Mann. The organization has earmarked more than $2 million over five years to the United Way’s efforts.
“This year the 1889 Foundation increased their support by $74,125 for a total investment of $609,125,” Tokar-Ickes said. “It is through quality programs delivered by our partner agencies that true change occurs.”
Mann spoke about the funds making a positive difference in people’s lives, such as the 1,140 adults who received dental care that they normally would not be able to afford.
United Way of the Laurel Highlands President Bill McKinney spoke about the potential fallout, especially for Pennsylvanian youth, if recreational marijuana is legalized.
“Now is the time we will have to double down,” he said.
He suggested that all the agencies and volunteers watch what is happening in Colorado and learn.
“Be aware of what is happening because it is coming,” he said.
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, but competition has ramped up as larger states such as California and entire countries such as Canada have embraced recreational weed. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is considering legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania.
“We know drug and alcohol abuse continues to negatively affect our communities,” McKinney said. “United Way has expanded funding for one of our key social change initiatives: preventing substance abuse among our youth.”
The Cambria County Drug Coalition and Twin Lakes Center of Somerset received $50,000 and $35,000, respectively, to continue to expand and implement drug and alcohol prevention programming for kids in coordination with other agencies.
This year the United Way is also investing $55,302 in community outreach services such as PA 2-1-1, a nonemergency helpline. Callers from both counties can call or text representatives day or night for information about health and human services such as counseling and job training.
Over the first four months of this year, PA 2-1-1 handled 477 calls from residents of both counties, according to Paula Gojmerac, community impact manager for the United Way.
The organization also committed $18,480 to emergency food and shelter services, which includes services provided to 18 food pantries, one food bank, two emergency shelters and three feeding programs in Cambria County.
“This is going to be a good year,” said Mike Artim, current chairman of the board of directors.
Other grants were presented to the following nonprofit organizations:
The Nurse-Family Partnership Program, operated by the Home Nursing Agency in both counties, received $91,000.
The Parents as Teachers program, provided through The Family Center in Somerset County and Beginnings Inc. in Cambria County, received $34,000 and $180,000, respectively.
The Salvation Army Johnstown Dental Center was awarded $18,000 to help offset the cost of dental work.
The Salvation Army Somerset Service Center received $6,500 for heating assistance.
Victim Services received $56,000 for services such as crisis counseling and court preparation for survivors.
Catholic Charities received $38,000 for two years to provide emergency financial assistance to families in both counties. The money will also support the organization’s homeless shelter, the Martha & Mary House in Johnstown.
Highlands Health, a Johnstown-based clinic that offers free medical services to uninsured individuals, was awarded $32,500.
The Peer Empowerment Network in Johnstown received $11,300 for the adult recovery program for those who experience serious mental illness.
The Somerset County Blind Association received $6,000 for its Children’s Vision Screening Program.
The Learning Lamp was awarded $43,000 for its after-school outreach programs, preschool scholarships and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports programs.
Small Town Hope, in Northern Cambria, was allocated $37,000 for its preschool program and neglect prevention program.
The Next Step Center, a homeless shelter in Somerset, was awarded a two-year funding commitment of $11,500 per year.
The Women’s Help Center in Johnstown received $10,000 to hire a staff mentor to help families move toward independence. The center is the only domestic violence center and emergency shelter in either county.
The Alternative Community Resource Program was awarded $5,000 for a summer enrichment program for at-risk youth.
The Boys & Girls Club of Somerset County received $17,000 for the club’s Power Hour, a homework help and tutoring program.
The Girl Scouts received $10,000 to provide more Scouting opportunities for girls in low-income or underserved areas.
The Greater Johnstown Community YMCA received $27,400 for the Summer Learning Loss Prevention Program for first- and second-graders, with a focus on reading.