April 16, 2014

Mostly sunny

United Way to target its aid

The United Way of Medina County wants to play a bigger role helping charities to identify the most important problems facing the community. United Way’s Executive Director Seth Kujat said the new approach dramatically will increase the possibility of improving lives in Medina County.

“Before we were focused on agencies telling us what programs they needed funding for,” he said. “The evolved model lets us continue to provide programs that kind of help, but lets us solve the root cause.”

To better identify the problems, the United Way turned to the Center of Community Solutions, in Cleveland, which gathered statistics from the American Community Survey, county health rankings and the Ohio Department of Education to compile a comprehensive report on the problems facing Medina County.

The report showed how the recession impacted the county:

• From 2008 to 2011, the poverty rate in Medina County almost doubled, jumping from 5.3 percent to 10.2 percent. The poverty rate among youth hit 16 percent.

• During that period, the median household income dropped to $59,500 — down more than 14 percent from the peak of $69,500 reported in 2009.

Kujat said the report provided insights used to determine three areas of funding: youth engagement, household sustainability and school readiness.

The emphasis on better education is critically important, he said, because if the community creates successful students, then the possibility of them needing assistance in the future decreases drastically.

“We want the students to be successful in life and not just graduate high school,” he said.

Kujat pointed out that the United Way has not had a strategic plan like this one in quite some time.

“It is about lifting them up and not handing out,” he said. “The question is can we get it so we don’t have to help someone again because we have gotten them out of crisis.”

The new funding method will go into effect for the 2014 funding cycle when the organization also will switch over to funding organizations every other year rather than annually.

This year, the United Way distributed $573,166 to 20 local partners funding a total of 29 programs.

Last year, those programs served 21,527 people.

Each year, the United Way starts its fundraising efforts in September at the Taste of Medina, where more that 20 local restaurants are showcased.

From then until January, the organization hopes to raise more than $1 million to put back into the community.

Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or adavis@medina-gazette.com.

  • No to United Way

    I stopped donating to United Way after learning that a very small percentage of my donation actually goes to helping people. This is not a worthwhile charity and it really doesn’t help people… Just lines the pockets of its directors.

  • Volunteer

    I am an active volunteer for seveal organizations in Medina and Cuyahoga counties and it seems to me that United Way wants not only more funds, but more “control”. After donating my time to United Way endeavors, it became quite apparent that United Way was using it’s volunteers as a means to justify the desires and actions of the United Way employees. nnVolunteers from the community supposedly decide on organizations and monetary amounts that they feel are worthy of United Way support, based on the application of the organizations. In reality, United Way employees put pressure on volunteers and otherwise attempt to sway the volunteer votes to their way of thinking; when United Way employees overrule the volunteer panels, the volunteers are not notified of recipents or the amount that was allocated, unless the panel members insist on disclosure and are willing to wait a very long time.nnAn example of this is: an requesting organization was requesting over $100,000 in funds, but they were not able to justify their request, nor did they bother to submit the requested documents and information in order to receive funds. Yet, United Way granted them 95% of the funds they requested, which was against the vote of the volunteer distribution panel.nnThere are many organizations in Medina and Cuyahoga counties that try to help those in need. Some needy people have found that they can get more than their fair share by visiting several food distribution centers weekly or monthly. Some of these “needy” collect enough free household items and clothing from charitable organizations to conduct garage sales.nnUnited Way wants to bring more organizations under their umbrella and thus United Way control; instead of United Way granting organizations funds to be distributed by charitable organizations, at their discretion, within their application for funds, United Way wants to do it directly. Since United Way employees are already doing this, their idea is not new, it’s the permit for them to bypass community volunteers and save United Way the hassle of recruiting volunteers and their time listening to how the community thinks the funds should be distributed. It would also give United Way more “power and control” without the input of the community. The “needy greedy” do deserve more tracking, but United Way needs to clean their own house before they take on more.nnAs a consequence, volunteers are feeling that they are being used as a scape-goat to justify the actions of United Way. It is indeed sad when United Way recruits volunteers, disregards the wishes of community volunteers and then blames the volunteer panels when complaints of funds distruibutions are questioned.nnI have decided that my time is more valuable than United Way thinks and my monetary donations will go to directly to my choice of worthwhile organizations.