July 25, 2016

Mostly cloudy

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.