Editor's note: This is the 24th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.



Practically anyone can learn lessons about improving relationships, and that is what Catholic Social Services' Marriage for Keeps program is all about.

"It's healthy relationship education, so we do classes that teach people skills, concepts and techniques to help them communicate better, help them resolve conflicts, help them work as a team," Rhonda Goodloe, regional coordinator at CSS, said.

According to the CSS website, relationship education for individuals is delivered in a series of Within My Reach workshops, led by a trained facilitator. Workshop participants may be single, in a dating relationship or even considering marriage.

For couples, CSS offers the Within Our Reach workshop, also led by a trained facilitator. Couples attend together and engage in individual work, couple activities and group discussion.

Both classes meet weekly, and Goodloe said classes are offered in both Spanish and English.

In the past year, 154 people in southwest Kansas reportedly benefitted from the program.

Goodloe said feedback and research done by the University of Denver shows how the program helps participants.

"We do feedbacks and things, and we get really positive feedback about the impact it's had on their relationships, things that they have learned, and how they're going to take that and apply it to their lives," she said. "It's skills and techniques, so we practice how to be a better listener, we practice how to tell people what we want and what we need, and things like that that they can apply to anything.

"This is not just information of how to have a healthy, romantic relationship. These are healthy relationships, period with your co-worker, with your family, with your child, just everyone."

In addition to the classes, Goodloe said CSS also offers case management services through Family Support Specialist Brooke Hamlin-Lopez.

"Along with the education piece, we also do case management, because we feel it's important to have a holistic approach," Goodloe said. "That's what Brooke does. She works with case management and helps people if they need employment services, or referral to parenting, or other types of referrals like drug and alcohol treatment, help with their budgeting, and things like that."

CSS currently provides the program through a three-year, $150,000 federal grant. Because it offers something for everyone, the additional $8,000 per year in funding the CCS receives from the Finney County United Way plays an important role in the program.

"I think it's really important to have that commitment from the community that United Way gives us. It's a federal grant, so the United Way funding allows us to include people in the class who don't meet the qualifications or criteria as outlined by the federal grant, so we are able to use that United Way money to make sure that we aren't excluding anyone," Deborah Snapp, executive director of CSS said. "And there's just a variety of different things that sometimes the federal grant doesn't cover that this United Way money helps us to cover."

Snapp said the federal grant funding will expire in September 2014, making the United Way funding even more important to the program.

"So we're really working on building a sustainability plan and looking at how we can continue the services, continue the classes without that grant money, and that makes the United Way even more important," she said.

Goodloe said all of Finney County United Way's member agencies work together to ensure that the most good is being done for the community, and the collaboration eliminates competition for funding.

"We refer some things to other agencies, but actually just partnering with them enables us to provide a place to have the class," she said. "The community here works very well together with the idea of, really, what's best for the community."

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; Meals on Wheels.