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United Way awards over $240,000 in grants

17 agencies in county receive aid

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania awarded over $240,000 in Community Impact Fund grants to county agencies Thursday, June 22.

“These are grants that are reviewed by a team of volunteer reviewers from the community, and they have been looking at these requests and reviewing these programs,” said Amy Franz, regional vice president. “We involved local community members, local donors, so they understood the need in their communities and what the organizations we support were requesting.”

The grants were awarded to 17 agencies in the county, including the American Cancer Society; American Red Cross, Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter; Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh; Center for Community Resources; Volunteer Income Tax Assistance; Community Care Connections; Early Learning Connections; Glade Run Lutheran Services; Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center; Lifesteps; Neighborhood Legal Services Association; Robin's Home; Salvation Army of Western Pennsylvania; The Arc of Butler County; The Lighthouse Foundation; Vision to Learn; and YWCA Butler.

Kierra Elder, communications director at The Lighthouse Foundation, said the organization was awarded $30,000 through the grant for two essential programs.

“Since we have so many programs, we applied for one for our transitional housing program and another one for our food pantry program,” Elder said.

The Light House Foundation’s transitional housing program was awarded under United Way’s “meeting basic needs” priority for the continued operation of five housing facilities in the county.

“It’s an 18-month housing program, so it’s basically meeting them right where they are, in whatever situation that is, and to help them gain independence and self-sufficiency,” Elder said. “That’s pretty much what our goal is for them, so hopefully, at the end of the 18 months, they got back on their feet, they have a job, maybe collected some savings, and we help them ensure that they have another place to go after their time is over with us.”

The program is entirely funded by contributions, grants and donations according to Elder.

“So with this grant, it will help us with basic utility payments and upkeep, being able to continue to have houses and specifically the transitional housing program,” she said. “It’s just a way for us to continue to be able to provide the program for our community.”

The Lighthouse Foundation Food Pantry was also awarded funds under United Way’s “meeting basic needs” priority.

“This grant is super-helpful because, although we do get a lot of food donations, we still do have to ensure that we have some of the stuff that are necessary,” Elder said. “We make orders through the Pittsburgh Food Bank, so that money is helpful for when we do have to make those orders.”

The foundation’s food pantry runs four days a week and provides a standard shopping experience for those in need — complete with aisles of groceries, fresh produce, canned goods and shopping carts.

“United Way, they are just an absolutely amazing organization,” Elder said. “They are so helpful, and they’ve been a huge help to us for years, so we’re really thankful for them and everything that they’ve done for us.”

Steven Green, president and CEO of Glade Run Lutheran Services, said the organization received $15,000 for its new warming center on East Diamond Street.

“It’s been a long-standing partnership with United Way, they’ve supported us in various ways throughout the years,” Green said. “Most recently, they supported our equine-assisted therapy program, and they supported that for a good part of five years, but we’re looking to shift their support of the organization in a different way — we obviously thought of the warming center very quickly, just because of the impact that it has on individuals in the community.”

The organization opened its overnight warming center last year in the Grace Wellness Center at 123 E. Diamond St. The warming center is scheduled to reopen in November.

“It was just a tremendous program for people that obviously were struggling to have permanent housing, struggling with a number of issues,” Green said. “But, it was funded by Butler County Human Services at level that just wasn’t sustainable, so we needed other partners to help with the funding if we were going to do it come this November — United Way helped in a big way.”

Sheila Talarico, vice president of development and external affairs, said the funds would help pay for new flooring, security doors and an improved kitchen — as well as basic supplies.

“It’ll go a long way in making the place safe and comfortable for those we serve,” Talarico said.

Last year the warming center served over 70 people through the winter, she said, with 21% eventually obtaining permanent housing and 14% acquiring temporary housing. The organization expects those numbers to grow as the program enters its second year.

“We appreciate the support from United Way,” Green said. “We couldn’t do it without them this November.”

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