United We Fight – United We Win

The Eastside Y guides and counsels.

Contributing Editor
Walt Pickut

United Way of Southern Chautauqua County Approaches Annual Goal

Cover photo: The Eastside Y guides and counsels.

A dollar does more than a dollar’s worth of work at the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County according to Executive Director, Amy Rohler. The key, Rohler says, is accountability.

Outcome-Based Funding promises contributors that all local United Way connected programs and partners account for their spending in a standard, easily understood way. “Everybody should know how their gifts are used,” Rohler assured the Jamestown Gazette’s readers. “If anybody wants to know their contribution is well used, we will prove it to you,” Rohler added with great confidence.

“Collective Impact” refers to the way that funded partners – the 39 local programs and 26 community partners – are required to report measurable results every six months with exact data on the impact they are having in the community. This provides the assurance that Rohler says the public deserves. Programs and partners really are doing what they promise to do for people.

“The United Way also asks the programs and partners to work together and collaborate” Rohler added. “In this community there are so many great programs happening that we’re sure we’ll succeed. The United Way helps them work together

“United we fight-United we win,” Rholer says, “is the motto we stand behind.”

More than Numbers

The whole story, however, is more than numbers. It is about real people achieving success and giving back. A recent example that Rohler cites concerns a young man named Stacy who paid his price and is now paying it back. For him, the state correctional system did its job. While imprisoned, he reformed his life, earned a Master’s Degree and returned to the world ready to live as a responsible, contributing member of society.

Unfortunately, nobody would hire him. Destitute, he was given temporary shelter and necessities by a local agency funded in part by the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County. He is now employed, using all of his training, skills, and experience, by that same agency where he now helps others regain their dignity, hope, and worth. He multiplied the United Way’s investment in a way that is typical of thousands of such stories.

Striders mentor students for success.

By the Numbers Workforce

But the numbers do count. Agency partners, for example, helped 5,474 young people and adults in Southern Chautauqua County last year to obtain soft skills – like personal, social, and drug awareness skills, and hard skills – like practical career and work knowledge, to be better prepared for work. This valuable investment in a ready workforce of $151,000 – just over 50 cents a week per person – has helped Southern Chautauqua create workforce readiness.

“A dollar or two a week, a cup or two of coffee, can really make a difference as a simple payroll deduction,” Rohler promised.

Working Families

“It is a common misunderstanding,” Rohler said, “that the United Way only helps people in poverty. I was under that impression myself, until I asked.”  Working families are a major target for assistance. Some hard-working people fall in a gap, earning too much for public assistance but not enough to afford some necessary services.

Through United Way funding, scholarships for adult and senior daycare, for example, can free a family caregiver to return to work. This small investment then can multiplies a family’s income and wellbeing. Other scholarships can provide memberships in such youth organizations as 4H, Girl Scout camp and other enrichments that will help the younger generation advance in later life.

YMCA creates a secure home for women and children on their way to independence.

By the Numbers Health and Independence

The United Way of Southern Chautauqua County has helped 8,455 people improve their health and independence this year. They helped 514 local citizens attain safe and stable housing and 1,350 older adults maintain independence. In addition, 167 people received disaster relief services and 6,424 people received help in meeting emergency and basic needs.

The United Way’s total contribution to agencies providing these services totaled $266,000, or about 60 cents a day per person. Combined Impact multiplies the value of every dollar contributed.

“A dollar or two a week, a cup or two of coffee, can really make a difference.” 

Independent “Deciders”

According to Executive Director Rohler, the United Way does not decide how funds given to individual programs and partners are to be used. Every agency is counted on to fulfill its own mission in its own way once the United Way has selected that program to share in the United Way contributions.

“We fully expect to meet our goal by the end of the year,” Rohler told the Gazette. This year’s overall goal is $1,335,000, with contributions already topping $1 million.

A committee of 50 local community leaders is chosen every year to review and evaluate all applications for United Way funding.  In addition, a new campaign chair is selected and this year’s chair is Kurt Eimille. This is a volunteer position for a key spokesperson. Kurt had been a popular football coach in Jamestown school system for many years. He saw serious needs among his students over the years that he could not address and this year is grateful and enthusiastic to make that difference in his community.

Stacy serves at UCAN Mission to help others return to self-sufficiency and a productive life.

By the Numbers Academic Success

Last year United Way programs and partners helped 4,378 people achieve academic success by working with them “from cradle to career.” Among them, 1,748 children entered school ready to learn, 1,907 youth stayed on track to graduate and 1,533 children received vision screening. A total expenditure of $530,500, or about 33 cents a day per student. Once again, the value of every dollar given was multiplied by the successes it funded.

“A dollar or two a week, a cup or two of coffee, can really make a difference.”

Cost of Success

More than 85 cents of every dollar contributed through the United Way goes directly to programs. This is better than the national benchmark “best practices for not-for-profit charitable organizations,” according to Rohler. Administrative costs are sometimes misunderstood, but administration is the brain and nervous system of an organization. It coordinates, networks, reaches out, communicates and creates synergy among agencies and partners to constantly improve these vital functions.

By comparison, New York City’s United Way office employs 75 people while the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County employs only four to collaborate and coordinate all 39 local programs and 26 community partners within Southern Chautauqua County.

Mental Health Association provides counseling and care.

More than Numbers Self-sufficiency

Last year United Way helped 1,057 families with the necessary life skills to be self-sufficient. That included 235 people who attained safe and stable housing, 111 adults who earned money from paid work, and 711 adults who received recovery coaching through contributions totaling $72,500, or about 19 cents a day per person.

“Our mission is to help every person and family improve their lives,” Rohler said. “A dollar or two a week, a cup or two of coffee, can really make a difference.”

Learn more

Cynde Johnson, Resource Development and Marketing Coordinator for the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County, invites readers to call 483-1561 to request a speaker or set up an opportunity for employers and other organizations for an informational meeting or program. Readers can also contact this year’s chair, Kurt Eimiller, to learn more about how people can contribute and become involved in the work.

“And don’t forget about “Dial 2-1-1,” Johnson said. Trained operators are always ready to offer personalized assistance with food, shelter, clothing, employment, mental health and much more. 2-1-1 is funded in part by United Way. Last year alone 30,000 calls from Jamestown received assistance. It is a national as well as local program, partly funded also by the state of New York. Also, type in: “United We Fight, United We Win 2018” on YouTube and learn more.

The United Way. United We Fight-United we Win!

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.