Editor's note:This is the sixth in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.
BY SCOTT AUST
While United Way funding represents a small portion of the local Salvation Army's budget, it's still a vital and important aspect of providing services to people in need.
"It's a part of what helps us keep our doors open," Robert DeLeon, community center director, said.
The Salvation Army received $16,000 from United Way this year, representing about 3 percent of its overall budget of $560,000. DeLeon said the organization hopes to receive a little more next year, but every little bit helps.
"I mean, $16,000 is nothing to sneeze at. We can pay a lot of electric bills, a lot of gas bills with the $10,000 they gave us for that, and we can provide a lot of support services for the kids with the $4,000 they gave us for the after-school program and the $2,000 for the summer program," he said.
United Way dollars help the Salvation Army provide social service programs, such as emergency help with utility bills and rent. Funding also puts food on the table for some families. The food pantry includes basic groceries provided by grocery stores in Garden City, and a USDA commodities distribution is held a few times a year.
Funding also goes toward youth services, which includes an arts and crafts center, some recreation, as well as tutoring and help with homework after school.
The youth programs offer kids and teens a safe place to spend time after school without getting into trouble out on the streets. In the summer, the organization holds a summer day camp daily, which provides enrichment activities.
In addition to the United Way, the Salvation Army also raises money through community donations and annual fundraising campaigns, such as holiday bell-ringing.
Lt. Jeff Curran, who took over as new commander for the local Salvation Army on June 26 fresh out of the Salvation Army training college in Chicago, came to Garden City from Lawrence.
Curran said Salvation Army in Lawrence had a good working relationship with the United Way, and he believes United Way support is vital to the Salvation Army mission.
"There's so much more we can do with their support that we wouldn't be able to do otherwise ... in terms of the much needed services we can provide to the community," he said. "Right now, I believe we're just scratching the surface of meeting the needs of people in the community. I think we can go so much deeper than we are right now."
Curran has several goals for the local organization, including expanding upon the after-school program that he found particularly impressive when he arrived in Garden City.
"I've been talking to the higher ups a little bit about maybe getting some sort of arts program in there, maybe something to teach basic music skills. We may be getting some assistance for that," he said.
Music programs offered at the Kroc Center in Chicago gave kids who didn't have many opportunities a chance to learn to play instruments, which made a difference in their outlooks, Curran said.
"Just to see the excitement in a kid's eye when they play the right note is a thrill for me," he said.
Another goal for Curran is to look for ways to increase the number of families, and the food available, through the Kansas Food Bank program. Just this past month, more than 700 families received groceries through the food bank, he said.
"We don't have a definite plan yet. These are things we're looking at right now that we really want to get off the ground," Curran said. "I've been impressed with the people here in Garden City, especially here in our corps, because they're willing to step up and do things for the community. That's something we can work with."
DeLeon said the needs are huge in the community and they continue to grow. The Salvation Army is appreciative of United Way funding because it is used to meet people's needs every day.
But the relationship with United Way goes deeper than just dollars, DeLeon said. It's about the partnerships created with United Way and other United Way agencies. Those partnerships made possible past programs such as the Tools for Schools and Stuff the Bus backpack and school supply programs.
"There's some great partnerships, and through those partnerships, we can make our dollars stretch farther," DeLeon said. "That's what United Way does. It brings partnerships together so one organization doesn't have to foot the whole bill. Everyone puts a little bit in, and same with the work. No one has to do everything themselves. We can do so much more with the dollars we have."
The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.
The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:
Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council — Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains — CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital — Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission — Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; and Meals on Wheels.