United Way funds continue to help residents
Even though the United Way of Jackson County has disbanded, non-profit organizations in Jackson County continue to receive United Way funds through the United Way of Greater Topeka.
Jackson County officially became a part of United Way of Greater Topeka in 2012, and local funds through United Way continue to help support a variety of basic needs programs here.
Tonya Barta, president and CEO of The Farmers State Bank, serves on the United Way of Greater Topeka board of directors along with Carrie Saia, Holton Community Hospital CEO. Barta and Saia represent Jackson County.
Barta said that any 501(c)(3) organization in the county, or serves the county, that meets basic needs criteria (food, rent, utilities and prescription) can apply for funding through the United Way of Greater Topeka.
The application process starts in January and then ends a couple of weeks later. Applicants are notified of any fund allotments in March.
In 2014, $18,000 in grant funds were awarded to five organizations that serve Jackson County:
*$7,500 to the Jackson Heights Education Fund for food assistance. The summer bookmobile, which serves northern communities, was able to provide free boxes of “kid-friendly pantry staples” to students who receive free or reduced school meals.
A total of 102 boxes were assembled and distributed to 41 households by volunteers each week. The boxes included 10 items, such as a bag of cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, Hamburger Helper, macaroni and cheese, granola bars and pancake mix.
* $500 to Catholic Charities for rent and utility assistance.
* $3,000 to Jackson County Ministerial Alliance (JCMA) for rent and utility assistance.
* $4,000 to YWCA for rent and utility assistance. The YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment is located on 107 E. Fifth St. in Holton behind city hall. The center offers a variety of free services for victims and family members of domestic violence and sexual assault.
* $3,000 to the Northeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department of Jackson County for prescription assistance. The program helps clients pay for medications they cannot afford.
* In addition, the JCMA’s Christmas Bureau received $5,000 in United Way funds in 2013 and 2014. The Bureau also received $7,000 in 2012.
This past fall, each school district received $2 from United Way for each student enrolled. Holton received $2,188, Jackson Heights received $838 and Royal Valley received $1,804.
Barta said that she, Saia and members of the Jackson County Advisory Council for the United Way of Greater Topeka have reached out to non-profits in the county about the assistance available through United Way.
“We each sent out several e-mails and took to social media to let people know these funds were available. The Recorder also published articles about the United Way,” Barta said. “This year’s allocation of funds have been decided through volunteer funding panels and will begin to be disbursed in the next couple of weeks.”
The local advisory council meets once a month, and Barta said that it’s the goal of the council to inform people about United Way.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t know anything about it, but we’re trying to spread the word and to hit each household,” she said.
Donations earmarked for Jackson County projects can be made at www.unitedwaytopeka.org. Donations are collected year round and can also benefit projects “as needs arise,” Barta said.
Besides giving, Barta said that community input is also being sought. United Way of Greater Topeka has created a community survey for Jackson County residents in order to understand the top projects community members are interested in and to learn where residents spend their volunteer time and resources.
The survey is available online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/EngageJackson and asks participates what the top three most important areas that need improvement in the community. It also asks residents to estimate how many hours they volunteer each year to the community and how much they donate. Additional demographic questions are also asked.
The United Way of Jackson County disbanded after serving the county for 34 years. The board of directors said the decision stemmed from a lack of board members, increased demands from the national United Way and difficult economic times.
The organization officially disbanded on Dec. 31, 2011 after raising a little more than $31,000 in its final campaign, it was reported.