Editor's note: This is the eighth in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.
BY KAMIL ZAWADZKI
Without the Salvation Army, many families in Garden City would be left without an important pillar of support in a myriad of ways, from rent and food to youth mentoring and services, in a time when need is increasing.
That, according to local Salvation Army Capt. Craig Lurtz, is why the agency has asked the Finney County United Way for $25,000 for 2013, an increase from the $20,000 the agency requested last year.
"We're seeing more kids that don't have a place to go after school and more need in their families, too," Lurtz said.
United Way funds account for about 11 percent of Salvation Army funding, and the funds typically are channeled into the group's youth services division, 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. And in the summer, the organization takes some kids up to the Kansas City area for summer camp and they have summer day camp daily, including reading to bridge educational gaps between school years.
"So many kids spend too much screen time. They'll sit in front of their TVs or in front of their video games or in front of their computers, and they're not active anymore," Lurtz said. "So to get them out and get them running and, basically, getting them to live like children once again is important to them."
Without those programs, he said, many kids, especially in low-income families, would have "no place to go."
"Otherwise, they would just be at home unsupervised, with nothing to occupy them," he said.
And to bolster the youth efforts, the Salvation Army also hosts classes on parenting techniques and child education issues to help families stand on their own.
Beyond youth and parenting services, the Salvation Army also helps families put food on the table and take care of their monthly bills. 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, as well.
"Whatever the needs of the family are, we can tailor what we do to help them the most," Lurtz said.
Community Center Director Robert DeLeon stresses that the Salvation Army's efforts are more than a temporary, stop-gap solution for cash-strapped families.
"One of the things we do is we teach budgeting classes," DeLeon said. "I always tell families, 'I don't want to just give you a handout, I don't want to just give you food. I want to teach you how to make it on your own.'"
He said he's already seen positive results from the budgeting seminars, as families come back for food packages less often than they might at the beginning and maintain a budget to keep track of their funds and make that dollar stretch.
DeLeon also said that the Salvation Army helps meet the needs where other community agencies might not be able to provide help.
"When our funding goes out, the people suffer," he said.
But while some agencies are tied more tightly to their funding sources, the Salvation Army also has been able to diversify its funding sources. In addition to the United Way, it also raises money through community donations and annual fundraising campaigns, such as holiday bell-ringing, to shore up its pool of resources.
"Our main goal is to give families the tools they need to be successful," DeLeon said. "And with that, I think we make an impact on this community."
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.