This morning I heard the Domestic Violence Victims' advocate that has an office in the United Way of Jasper County building that she had a client who needed some help. The woman had fled a dangerous situation with nothing but the clothes on her back. She needed some of everything. She had nothing - no underwear, socks, shirts, shorts, pants, toothbrush … Nothing.
So the advocate quickly went to work gathering up donated items she had in her office - shampoo, some shirts. I looked through my "Just In Case" cabinet and found a couple more shirts, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Realizing we still didn't have what she needed and the shelter did not have her sizes either I put the call out on facebook asking for help with donated clothes to help this woman. Within a few minutes I had been contacted with offers to help. Someone dropped off a bag of clothes and $20, another stopped by with $18 and a Starbucks gift card - "She may want a smoothie or something special" she said. I gathered up the $78 we had collected and went to the store on a mission.
I can't say thank you so much to those that helped out!! Above is a photo of all the items purchased - 10 pairs of underwear, 10 pairs of socks, jeggings, shorts, 5 shirts and a dufflebag - with donated money, along with everything that was donated
And if you are wondering why I went to pick up these items instead of the advocate it is because she was called out to help another woman. The issue is real folks and it happens all the time - everywhere.
I am thankful for the Crisis Center, the amazing advocate who does this daily, the ladies who came forward and donated today and all the people who support United Way so we can have a Jasper County advocate dedicated to helping the men, women and children in need in our community.
After the New Year things get busy at the United Way of Jasper County. Agencies submit their applications for funding, volunteers are contacted, lots of copies are made and the allocations process begins.
At the UWJC, 20 community members (board and volunteers) are tasked with reviewing all the applications and supporting documentation from health and human services agencies seeking support from UW. While some may think that this is a simple process it actually spans from end of January to mid-March.
The process includes each team member being assigned to a set of agencies. Once teams have their assignments they set up site visits to see first hand what each of their agencies do. Every year I hear how much people enjoy this part of the process. It is a time to meet staff, see facilities and in many cases talk to people who are receiving vital services.
Once site visits are completed, volunteers pour over the applications which includes an agency profile, application, copy of mid-year reports from previous year funding, agency budget, program budget, list of board of directors, and any supplemental items the agencies want to include.
Then the teams come together for four nights in March to conduct interviews with representatives of the agencies. Questions are asked and answered, and valuable conversation takes place. The team members fill out a detailed review sheet that scores the agencies on a variety of things from having supplied all their documents to how effective the programs are. The teams then turn in their request suggestions.
Once I receive all the information it is compiled and put into a spread sheet which is given to members of the board who meet to designate allocations. This year that meeting is in mid-March. On April 1, agencies will begin receiving funding.
As you can see it isn't as simple as a yes or a no. The allocations process is an important piece of the UW puzzle which allows each agency's program to be evaluated to determine how much money they should receive - if any. This helps ensure your investment in UW is being used to its maximum potential.
Like you, we at UW want to ensure people receive the vital services they need to live their best lives. By having an intense and extensive allocations process we can ensure that we are good stewards of your donations and that the agencies receive the support they need in an effective and efficient manner.
Many hours are spent on this process and I thank the volunteers who give their time to helping United Way of Jasper County.
The office is decorated with a large Christmas tree,paper garland adorns the walls of the meeting room and colorful wrapping paper encases the doors to the offices here at United Way of Jasper County. The tables in the meeting room have been covered with donated toys. Hats, gloves and scarves decorate the tree. An abundance of personal care products nestled underneath the faux pine. It is truly Christmas time at United Way of Jasper County.
During the holidays the call for need increases at UWJC. To help combat the stress of the season United Way works closely with agencies and organizations that have holiday assistance programs. We actively help promote adoption of children from Salvation Army and St. Nick's Christmas Club. We help organize the Newton Police Association and Newton Police Department's Shop With Cops program that provides outreach and positive interactions with the police in the community. The United Way also does an annual drive for mittens, gloves, hats, scarves and for 2017 expanded the efforts to include personal items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, body wash, deodorant and more.
Yesterday evening I had a woman come to UWJC to get some help with Christmas. I loaded the woman up on rolls of donated wrapping paper, a football, used books, pencils, crayons, construction paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, Play Doh, hats, gloves, sweatshirts and Hot Wheels toys that had all been donated. The woman shared how she and her husband were raising their grandchildren following the death of her son, their father. Changes at her husband's job meant less money for the family and things were tight. The burden of presents for children was straining the family's finances. She was happy with anything and everything I put into sacks for her. "The pencils can be a stocking stuffer." "I can wrap up these books, the boys won't mind that they are used." She was appreciative of everything.
Life happens with uncertainty and knowing the United Way was able to help a family in need for the holidays just reminds me of why we do what we do. As we loaded up the back of her van the woman wiped away tears and asked if she could hug me. I accepted on behalf of each and every person who has donated to UWJC this year to help make life better for this family and thousands more in Jasper County.
I hope that this holiday season finds you with family and friends and enjoying the reason for the season. And if I should get pencils in my stocking this year I will be thankful knowing that sometimes the simplest of gifts are truly the greatest and most heartfelt.