Editor's note: This is the 15th in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.
By BECKY MALEWITZ
United Cerebral Palsy has been a part of Patrick Twiss' life since he got his first wheelchair at the age of 5.
"Ever since he was little, ever since his first wheelchair, they have taken care of him as far as posturing and seating," said Kevin Twiss, Patrick's father.
Patrick, now 18 and a senior at Garden City High School, goes to Wichita several times a year for modifications on his wheelchair that include everything from getting customized padding in his chair to changing the battery.
Patrick is just one of 15 to 25 individuals in Finney County who receives services from UCP.
"We serve folks with all disabilities, not just cerebral palsy and that includes youngsters with MS (multiple sclerosis) and MD (muscular dystrophy), we have helped folks with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, it really doesn't matter to us," said Dave Jones, executive director of UCP. "Our programs are designed with cerebral palsy in mind, but they work very well for folks with other disabilities, as well."
Finney County United Way has been a long-time contributor to UCP's efforts. The organization is slated to receive $6,600 next year, an increase of $600 from the previous year. The money will be placed into the general budget, but Jones says that all of that money plus more will go back to individuals in Finney County.
"We'll spend at least that purchasing equipment for local folks," Jones said. "When you add up all the different services, the folks that have moved here, our staff costs and that kind of thing, it's generally a lot more than our allocation."
In addition to providing equipment for individuals in wheelchairs, UCP hosts several statewide programs based in Wichita.
"We have a manufacturing company where we employ folks with disabilities and a 100-unit housing complex where we provide accessible housing for people with disabilities," Jones said. "We currently have several folks from Finney County that have moved from Western Kansas and now reside in Wichita and reside in our housing project."
Jones said that the Finney County United Way is an important part of UCP's efforts in the area.
"(Without the funding) we wouldn't be able to help as many folks, that's for sure," he said. "The other part is that it's nice to have that local focal point in each one of the communities where we are a United Way partner agency because we get to know the other agencies. We get a lot of our referrals through United Way and through their 211 system. They have been very supportive of us. We have had a nice relationship with them for a number of years."
While Kevin Twiss says that it would be nice if UCP had an office closer to Garden City, he is appreciative of what the organization does to help Patrick live comfortably so that the only thing he has to worry about is counting down the days until his December graduation.
"Even the cushions in his chair are made to fit Patrick," Kevin Twiss said. "It's really important for everything, things you don't realize like digestion, sleep, to the basic just being comfortable all day, no sores. It's almost critical for someone who's confined to a wheelchair to have that kind of service."
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.