Editor's note: This is the 12th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.
BY KAMIL ZAWADZKI
Finney County United Way funding is key to crucial services provided by Family Crisis Services in Garden City.
According to Executive Director Janene Radke, losing United Way funding would mean the agency would have to close the shelter it provides to victims of domestic, dating, sexual or other abuse.
"When people come into the shelter, a lot of times, they don't have anything," she said. "It is considered an emergency shelter ... and we are the only shelter in this area."
For 2014, Family Crisis Services is set to receive $26,000 from the local United Way, the same amount as in 2013.
"We try to ask for the same amount from year to year because we know that United Way is balancing a lot of agencies in the community and a lot of need," Radke said. "United Way has been very supportive of us."
That money largely supports overhead costs such as utilities and food for the organization's shelter for victims of abuse or stalking.
The shelter serves a wide swath of southwest Kansas beyond Finney County. The nearest such shelters are in Liberal and Dodge City. And with an 18-person maximum capacity at the Garden City location, it can be difficult to meet what Radke says is a growing need for such safe havens in the region.
"Mostly, I think, because of the economy ... the lack of housing that we have in the community, I think we've seen more people coming in," she said.
The housing crunch in Garden City sometimes makes it more difficult for Family Crisis Services to help its clients start a new life after the dangerous situations and relationships they leave behind. When affordable housing is at a premium, it makes the transition more difficult. Advocates also help clients in other areas, as well.
"(We) basically help them navigate all of the different systems that they're involved in when you're dealing with domestic violence or sexual assault," Radke said.
She said she's seen people, mostly in their 20s, come through her office seeking support. But situations of abuse, violence or stalking know no boundaries and occur across age or ethnic demographics.
"We try to empower people so that they have the ability to be able to make the decisions they need to make and take back their lives to live a violence-free life," Radke said.
With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, staff at the agency work on early awareness and prevention, including hosting an open house and going to schools in the area to discuss safe dating.
"Trying to maybe prevent some of those choices before it gets into relationships where people are married," she said is the goal. "Look at trying to make those healthier choices early on."
As a United Way agency in what Radke said is a relatively small but generous community, Family Crisis Services works with other groups, such as the local Salvation Army, to coordinate where the need is and refer clients to others that can help.
"We can provide so many more services, and there's so many more opportunities for people when you open up those avenues," she said. "... It provides us a network. ... I think all of the agencies really try to work together to try to better the community and to provide the services that we need to. So we all do something different."
And at Family Crisis Services, less community support for the United Way could mean less funding, which could compromise its ability to maintain not just the shelter, but steady advocacy and human support for clients in need.
The agency's work goes beyond the need for stable funding and simply making sure the office is staffed and everyone gets a paycheck.
"People in this field are people that are vested in our mission," Radke said. "They can't be here just to earn a paycheck."
The Family Crisis Services office, located at 106 W. Fulton St. in Garden City, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. A 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached by calling 275-5911 or toll-free at (800) 275-0535.
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 United Way 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; Meals on Wheels.