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United Way’s new model provides $1.2 million in funding to 20 programs

SALISBURY — The Rowan County United Way’s annual campaign this year raised about $1.5 million from the public, and that’s a good reason why funding shouldn’t be limited to member agencies, says Jeannie Sherrill of Families First N.C.

“These funds were raised by the community and they should be open to the community to apply for it,” Sherrill said.

Sherrill’s Families First was one of 12 organizations who received a total of $1.2 million in grants in the United Way’s first year under its community impact model, which has directed money to programs focused on substance abuse, mental health, healthy lifestyle behaviors and basic needs. With some organizations repeated, there were 20 total programs and projects funded, including three from Families First.

The United Way had previously designated member agencies and provided recurring funding.

Funded items this year, which range from child- and parent-focused programs at Families First to an aquaponics project at Main Street Mission in China Grove, were notified Dec. 6. Included in the 20 funded items was $100,000 for research and development of a six-bed detox facility and $175,000 for a mental health agency that still requires additional vetting.

There were programs funded at government agencies, too, with Rowan-Salisbury Schools receiving money to provide mental health services to students who couldn’t otherwise afford it and the Salisbury Police Department receiving funds for an opioid response initiative.

All told, the United Way’s funding allocations include $434,462 for substance abuse, $365,560 for mental health, $200,771 for healthy lifestyle behaviors and $204,340 for basic needs.

United Way Executive Director Jenny Lee said that the process of choosing programs was volunteer-driven and involved months of evaluating applications. All grants awarded by the United Way will be for two years, with a 10% reduction in funding in the second to ensure sustainability.

Lee said the money allocated is lower than money raised through this year’s campaign to provide for uncollectible contributions and administrative costs.

Barry Hill, the United Way’s vice president of community impact, said donors to the agency’s annual campaign demanded “more bang for the buck” with their money. He said the new community impact model requires measurable outcomes, with the first evaluation of program performance coming six months into 2020.

At Main Street Mission in China Grove, an aquaponics program will grow tomatoes, vegetables and greens in water while fish form a mutually-beneficial environment and provide nutrients for plants.

The idea, said Executive Director Hope Oliphant, came from Natalie Morgan, who is on Main Street Mission’s board of directors.

“We were batting around the idea about being self-sustainable ourselves, and she actually first suggested hydroponics (cultivating plants in water),” Oliphant said. “I spoke with folks at N.C. State University and the local agriculture office and things kind of just went from there.

“It fit with our vision of fresh, affordable foods and you can’t get any fresher than picking it right off the vine from the market. We really feel like getting this grant is a lynchpin in turning the corner for us in being self-sustaining.”

She said the United Way’s new community impact model fits well with Main Street Mission’s goal of “smart charity” rather than one-way giving.

Main Street Mission also received funding for its Getting Ahead Program.

At Families First, grants will fund existing programs.

Its 14-week Strengthening Families Program aims to “build strong family cohesion,” improve parenting skills and other “demonstrated indicators for substance abuse,” Sherrill said.

Also funded is Families First’s Second Step Program, which provides social-emotional learning for young children. The program is in 12 elementary schools in the county and serves 1,600 children per week, Sherrill said.

“More than anything else, it teaches kids to love each other and get along,” she said.

The third funded item for Families First is its Teen Parenting Program, which identifies teen parents and aims to help them graduate from school. There are three graduating this month. The United Way will provide $11,840 in matching funding for a state grant, Sherrill said.

The full list funding for programs is as follows:

• $100,000 for a substance-use treatment program at Nazareth Child and Family Connection’s Mahaley Avenue location in Salisbury.

• $83,248 for Families First’s Strengthening Families program.

• $51,214 for an opioid response initiative at the Salisbury Police Department.

• $50,000 for a substance abuse treatment program at Capstone Recovery Center.

• $50,000 for a program called Surrounding Students with Community Support at Communities in Schools of Rowan County.

• $100,000 for research and development of a six-bed detox facility.

• $100,000 for a day treatment program at Nazareth Child and Family Connection.

• $30,560 for Families First’s social-emotional learning for young children program.

• $30,000 for school-based mental health services at Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

• $20,000 for mental health treatment at Capstone Recovery Center.

• $175,000 for a unnamed mental health agency that requires additional vetting.

• $150,920 for an aquaponics program called Marketplace Gardens at Main Street Mission.

• $50,000 to fund scouting in the Central North Carolina Council of Boy Scouts of America.

• $30,000 for a diabetes prevention program at the YMCA of Rowan County

• $25,311 for a teen parenting program at Families First.

• $20,000 for afterschool access to physical fitness and education on health living at the YMCA of Rowan County.

• $110,000 for emergency housing stability services at the Salvation Army.

• $68,000 for an emergency shelter at the Family Crisis Council of Rowan.

• $14,500 for a program named Connecting Across Rowan for Seniors at Rufty-Holmes Senior Center.

• 11,840 for the Getting Ahead Program at Main Street Mission.

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-7970-4248.

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