What This Place Needs. . .
United Way is in a process of transition. Traditionally thought of as simply a fundraising organization, United Way in Leavenworth is moving away from an emphasis on dollar amounts and moving towards a focus of impacting critical community needs. Over the past year, United Way has conducted needs assessments in three areas: health, education, and the financial stability of every person in our community. “Now that’s a pretty broad swipe at the challenges in our community so we have to really focus to achieve any measurable outcomes.” Says Larry Martin, United Way Board Chair. “We started our community needs assessments earlier this spring. The intent is to identify specific, key areas that we can intervene and provide assistance with the ultimate goal of moving people from dependence to independence.” The needs assessment is an ongoing process and the hope is to have as many people in our community participate as possible. Although still early, some insights have begun to emerge.
Financial stability. At the core of financial stability is transportation. The lack of public transportation throughout Leavenworth County is significant and is particularly acute for those needing assistance. Currently, churches and organizations like Welcome Central try to meet the needs with volunteer drivers. For people in need, it is a daily struggle to get to medical appointments, purchase groceries let alone hold a job. United Way has initiated discussions within the community to find a sustainable, ongoing transportation system for those in need.
United Way also endorses a program called Hope Mentoring. The mission of the program is to empower TANF (welfare) clients to increase self-reliance and attain independence in a variety of living situations to include gainful and meaningful employment, responsible and effective parenting and thriving, healthy families through the mentoring process. The Hope Mentoring program is looking for volunteers now.
A vital aspect of financial stability is programs that provide a safety net to people in need. United Way will continue to fund those critical programs that provide that safety net. Additionally, we will explore programs that teach financial literacy to families in need. To help them navigate and improve their financial well-being.
Education. Preliminary discussion and research has led to a startling fact, “One in Six Children Who Are Not Reading Proficiently in Third Grade Fail to Graduate from High School On Time, Four Times the Rate for Children with Proficient Third-Grade Reading Skills” identified by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. United Way is exploring programs that can target that challenge.
Health. Behavioral health has emerged as a significant need in our community. Declining resources for mental health in the state of Kansas are well documented. The reduction of behavioral health, drug and alcohol intervention services mean that local Emergency rooms and the County jail are often the first level of care rather than a last resort. Programs similar to Rainbow, Inc. located in Kansas City are being researched as possible solutions for Leavenworth County. Success is measured in terms of people diverted from going to jail or needing to be sent to one of the state mental hospitals.
United Way has also brought the Familywize program to Leavenworth County. FamilyWize is a prescription discount card free to anyone. It can be used as often as needed for any qualifying prescription much like a reusable coupon. The card has no income limits or age requirements and requires no registration. Simply by presenting the card at a participating pharmacy users can save on average 43%.