The community grants, announced earlier this month, are up $300,000 over the local United Way's last three-year grant cycle. More than 50 volunteers on three panels set priorities and reviewed grant applications during the year-long process.
In all, 107 programs in 23 communities will receive funding.
Choosing which programs will get grant money is "a real challenge," said Karen Madsen, a former Everett School Board member who served on one of the three panels, the "Kids Matter" group.
"You think, 'Is this a need or is this a wish? Do you have money for all the needs? And if you don't, should we be funding wishes?'" Madsen said. She wants United Way donors to know that applications are carefully vetted, and that needs are balanced to serve many areas and demographics.
The panels represent major areas of need, identified by United Way as Kids Matter, Families Matter and Community Matters.
Total revenue from the agency's 2012 campaign is due to be announced in July. "Our initial results were higher," said Neil Parekh, a spokesman for the local United Way. That's why $300,000 more was available for new three-year grants. United Way of Snohomish County's total revenue for 2011 was about $9.95 million, up slightly from the prior two years.
Full Life Care, an Everett-based adult day program, received $20,000. Kristin Ott, the nonprofit agency's north regional manager, said the money will be the first from United Way in more than five years. The agency was formerly called ElderHealth Northwest.
It will make a real difference, Ott said. Full Life Care recently lost some Snohomish County funding.
"On a daily basis we serve about 80 chronically ill, disabled and developmentally disabled adults," Ott said. Full Life Care also helps younger adults suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
"The grant money came at just the right time. It will help us with mental health groups we were running," Ott said. "These support groups are almost sacred. It's a place they can talk and share their feelings."
Academic support for at-risk children is the aim of a new program that received a United Way grant. Casino Road Scholars, a partnership between YMCA of Snohomish County and the Mukilteo School District, was awarded $57,500.
Cory Armstrong-Hoss, a program director at the Mukilteo YMCA, said Casino Road Scholars, which starts in September, will be based at Horizon Elementary School. Similar to a YMCA program in Cincinnati, Casino Road Scholars will provide after-school tutoring, mentoring and other support to 30 fourth- and fifth-graders who struggle with academics. The money will help pay for a certified teacher and an assistant.
With parent permission, the Casino Road Scholars program will provide intensive after-school help, regular parent and teacher meetings, and field trips as incentives.
Armstrong-Hoss said it will be somewhat like the Y's Minority Achievers Program, which helps older students work toward college or career goals. Ideally, he said, kids in Casino Road Scholars could be helped by YMCA academic support through high school.
Armstrong-Hoss sees the realities for kids the Casino Road Scholars program will try to help. He described one boy who lives in a two-bedroom apartment with seven people. "He sleeps on the floor in the living room. He has said to us he can't study there. Some of these kids face tremendous challenges," Armstrong-Hoss said.
Madsen said grant applications are very specific. "There's accountability. They are required to set goals, and then United Way checks back in with them yearly to see how they are doing," she said. "It's not enough to say, 'You know us. We do good work.'"
Grant applicants were required to be nonprofit health or human service agencies that could provide audits or reviewed financial statements for the prior two years, and had to meet other eligibility standards.
Priorities identified by the three panels included: early learning and after-school programs; foster care and family skill building; affordable housing and emergency services; health gaps for the uninsured or under-insured; career education and help for seniors; reducing isolation due to disability, transportation or language; and reducing crime and supporting crime victims.
Even with an added $300,000 for this three-year cycle, Madsen said, "sadly, the needs are up as well."
"We didn't wish we could give money to everything. Some programs are not a good fit," she said. "We really wish we had more money to give."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
United Way grants
For information about United Way community grants to 107 programs over the next three years, and a list of recipients: www.uwsc.org/060513.php
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