United Way announces $2.8 million in grants

CHAMPAIGN — Local donors opened their hearts and wallets to recession-crunched human service agencies, but there is only so much money to go around.

The United Way of Champaign County is on track to meet, and possibly exceed, its fund-raising total of $3.3 million fundraising goal, says its President and CEO Lyn Jones.

But the $2.8 million community investment package United Way announced Thursday afternoon couldn't cover all the help struggling service agencies asked for in terms of funding requests, Jones said.

"We had double what we were able to allocate in terms of dollars," she said.

Of that total, $1.8 million is tied to United Way's newly adopted community goals, and $1 million is going to programs specified by donors.

The United Way will fund 67 programs for the next two years in four different categories. The amounts the programs receive this year are one-year awards, and they'll receive the same amount next year, subject to campaign donations, Jones said.

The money is being divided as follows:

— $286,599 for 14 programs that help individuals and families benefit from an improved human condition with access to resources, information and volunteer opportunities.

— $640,532 for 20 programs that help children and youth develop to their full potential and become positive, contributing members of society.

— $673,697 for 22 programs helping people met their physical and mental health needs.

— $217,725 for 11 programs that help individuals and families become more financially secure and stable to meet their basic needs.

The United way estimates more than 73,000 people, or one out of every three in Champaign County, will receive a service from a United Way-funded agency.

Some United Way projects still under development: Jones said efforts are under way to start a countywide kindergarten readiness initiative, an emergency shelter for homeless families, and a 2-1-1 information and referral hotline for Champaign County.

The 2-1-1 line is a national United Way initiative that connects people with a wide variety of community services, and it's currently available in 86 percent of the U.S. outside Illinois, Jones said.

The United Way won't close out its fundraising campaign until the end of June, and Jones said it's been going well.

"We are probably going to finish the campaign with a higher total than two years ago," she said.

The 2010 United Way campaign raised $3.201 million.

Jones said local donors have been generous again this year, but human service agencies — especially those dealing with the state of Illinois — are struggling with payment delays and looking for funding options. Many also need more money because they're serving more people, and all are trying to do more with less, she said.

"There are very generous people in this community, but the people who run these human service agencies are on the front lines, and they are heroes," Jones said.

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