In addition to investing in core programs through partner agencies, United Way of Story County (UWSC) offers the opportunity for human service agencies serving individuals and families in Story County to apply for grant funding. When funding is available (which may come from such sources as designated campaign donations, income from the UWSC Endowment or the annual budget, for example), the UWSC Allocations Committee will review applications generally each month before presenting recommendations to the UWSC board of directors. The awarded grants must support unanticipated, emerging or other under-funded needs.
For the next several months, this column will highlight some recent grant recipients as a way to share the good work of local agencies, and at the same time, fill you in on other opportunities UWSC provides beyond the traditional campaign and funding model.
In October, the UWSC board of directors voted to allocate a $1,500 grant to FreeStore, Inc. for support to ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support). FreeStore is a nonprofit charity based in Des Moines that collects, stores and gives furniture and household items to victims of domestic violence. It has been serving referrals from ACCESS for five years, with an average 20 families each year. When FreeStore gives furniture to ACCESS referrals in Story County, the delivery truck’s round trip averages 80 miles. Costs associated with transportation brought FreeStore to UWSC.
When most victims in a domestic violence situation flee, they leave with only their children and the clothes on their back. Therefore, when they are ready to leave the shelter and establish a new home, they don’t have any furniture. That might mean they and their children live without even the most basic furniture, such as beds and a table and chairs. Or, sometimes that might mean they are unable to start over, which leaves few options except to find their way back to their abuser.
To alleviate the problem, FreeStore provides the victim with whatever furniture he or she needs to furnish their home and be self-sufficient. FreeStore invites the family to the warehouse to pick out what they need, and then arranges to deliver it for them. Volunteer drivers in Story County come from Acacia Fraternity at Iowa State University, Danfoss, Volunteer Center of Story County and local churches. It costs about $200 to serve a family in Des Moines and even more to deliver to Story County. The UWSC grant will help defray transportation costs by helping to fund gas and truck upkeep.
It can also be noted that, just as in the ASSET process, outcomes are important to UWSC in the grant process as well. After UWSC has received a signed agreement from FreeStore, or any other agency, the grant payment is made. A report on the status of the program(s) and use of UWSC funds is required from the agency six months after the initial grant date. Thus, the UWSC grant process ensures investments are not only needed, but also spent effectively.
(Sara Wilson is marketing director for United Way of Story County, a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.)