Editor's note:This is the 18th in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.



Marisela Caraveo has been in her share of rocky relationships. She admits she's made the mistake of getting involved with men who turned out to be verbally abusive.

She doesn't want it to happen again.

Through the Catholic Social Services Marriage for Keeps program, the Garden City single mother says she is learning communication, problem-solving and self-awareness skills that she hopes will better prepare her to enter into and maintain a healthier, more satisfying relationship in the future.

"Now, I'm more aware of who I am and what I want in a relationship," Caraveo said.

Caraveo is one of 77 individuals who this past year have been involved in the CSS Marriage for Keeps Within My Reach program, which focuses on providing individuals who are single or in a relationship "the necessary tools to lead more satisfying relationships," according to an overview of the Marriage for Keeps program.

Another 91 people this year have taken part locally in Marriage for Keeps' original marriage enrichment program, Within Our Reach, which is open to engaged and married couples. The program provides 10 weeks of marriage education classes covering topics such as communication, problem solving, stress management and commitment, according to the CSS website. Both the Within Our Reach and Within My Reach classes meet weekly.

In its most recent attempt to expand the reach of Marriage for Keeps, CSS also is offering the relationship enrichment program to prisoners in the Finney County Jail.

CSS currently is in its second year of receiving funds through a three-year, $150,000 federal grant that pays for the agency to provide free relationship education workshops and services. But while the grant covers the Within Our Reach program and partially funds the Within My Reach program, CSS has turned to United Way and other outside funding to help continue expanding the Within My Reach and jail programs.

"Because of United Way money, we were able to expand those programs," said Rhonda Goodloe, regional coordinator for CSS.

CSS has asked for $9,000 from the Finney County United Way in 2013, the same amount the agency was allocated in 2012.

"It probably wouldn't have much of a future," Deborah Snapp, executive director of CSS in the Diocese of Dodge City, said about how Marriage for Keeps' growth relies on United Way and other funding to supplement the federal grant. "We need to have community resources to continue it at any level."

While Marriage for Keeps originally was geared toward strengthening couples' relationships, the scope has grown and changed to where it now also teaches participants how to foster and maintain healthy parent/child relationships and relationships in the workplace and everyday life.

"These skills can improve all areas of your life because so much of your life involves relationships," Goodloe said.

Caraveo found out about the Within My Reach program when she began volunteering at CSS. In the Within My Reach program, participants take part in discussions that center on problem-solving, relationship expectations and teamwork, according to CSS.

Caraveo said the program has taught her how to set and manage her expectations for relationships, whether they be romantic, with family and friends or even in the workplace.

"A lot of self-awareness, getting to know yourself, to avoid conflicts with people," Caraveo said about what she has learned through the program.

For Goodloe, the program is all about promoting the power of healthy relationships.

For more information about the Marriage for Keeps programs, call 272-0010. Or, come by the CSS office in Garden City, 603 N. Eight St.

"You have a healthy relationship with a family, and the children will be healthy and you'll have a healthier workforce," Goodloe said.

The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $550,000 for 2013, the same as it has been for the last few years.

The 21 partner agencies for the 2013 campaign are also the same as this year.

They include: Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Finney County RSVP; Kansas Children's Service League; Catholic Social Service; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Program; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Community Day Care Center; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.