United Way of the CSRA, an umbrella nonprofit that already funds many local charities, last week added six new groups to its list of sponsored agencies: Christ Community Health Services, Child Enrichment Inc., Easter Seals, Hope House, Columbia County Community Connections, and Ronald McDonald House.
It's the first time in 15 years United Way of the CSRA has funded new agencies, said Brooke Steele, United Way's community impact director.
"I think for many years the board felt we didn't have the funds to support new groups and we needed to focus on growing the programs we had," Steele said. "It's a really exciting time for us. There are unmet needs that United Way can help with and thereby increase the impact we are making."
Christ Community Health Services is not even 4 years old, but already it has delivered 24,000 affordable office visits to uninsured patients. The most common health problems center physicians see are high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity, said Communications Director Ron Skenes.
"You can't deal with these types of long-term health issues by visiting the emergency room," he said.
Though Christ Community patients usually work steady jobs, a struggling economy has left many without health benefits. At the center, an office visit costs as little as $25 and increases based on household income. Private donations, such as those from United Way, bridge the gap between what patients pay and the actual cost of providing service.
"United Way is going to have a huge impact on us," Skenes said. "We are renovating a building for a new health center and will soon hire two more physicians. The new funds will help us expand so we can serve even more patients."
Child Enrichment Inc. since 1978 has provided forensic interviews, court advocacy and counseling for children who've been sexually abused. Children come to the program anxious and constantly fearful, said Dan Hillman, the executive director, but with help, accept that the abuse wasn't their fault and learn strategies to prevent further incidents.
Hillman recalled a 14-year-old girl who entered the program after being abused for years by her stepfather. Her family had been paralyzed into inaction because of past violent attacks. Therapy steeled the girl's will to stand against her stepfather and she eventually became a group leader.
"Helping her cost us $1,800," Hillman said. "You can literally save a child's life for $1,800."
Without United Way sponsorship, the agency faced a $65,000 hole in its annual budget.
"It's significant for us," Hillman said. "We have always been committed to serving all children for as long as they need us."
Easter Seals trains people with disabilities and helps them to enter the work force. Last year the agency started a new job-sampling program. It allows clients to visits and work at different job sites to see what kind of work they might enjoy.
"They really have been loving it," said Sheila Thomas, the organization's CEO. "It's led to a lot of things we didn't anticipate. Some of the employers have actually ended up giving people jobs."