A look at United Way programs: First in our series – Senior Support and Financial Stability programs

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Staff leading activities at Collat Jewish Family Center. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

United Way of Central Alabama proudly supports a network of health and human service organizations in Central Alabama. Its financial investment amounts to over $38 million raised mostly during workplace campaigns. Most of these funds are distributed via agency allocations and grants to foster collaboration.

This is the first in a series of eight articles that will canvas the agencies and programs that received allocations by impact area. This installment looks at Senior Support and Financial Stability programs and answers the question : Where does the money go?

Story of Sue

In her late 50’s, Sue was diagnosed with a brain disorder with symptoms of dementia causing her teaching career to end. Now 15 years later, her husband and two daughters are her caregivers. Thanks to CARES, a program of Collat Jewish Family Services, the whole family has a greater quality of life. The program gives her family the break they need to be better caregivers and provides Sue with cognitive, social, and physical stimulation.

Senior Support Services – enhancing the quality of life for seniors

Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Senior Support Services are programs designed to enhance the quality of life for seniors in our community by providing services that help improve their mental, physical, or social well-being. Collat Jewish Family Services, Positive Maturity, and United Community Center are United Way of Central Alabama agencies that provide these services.

Collat Jewish Family Services

Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

United Way funding makes it possible for CJFS to provide programs such as In-Home Personal Care, which primarily serves low-income seniors in subsidized housing. United Way helps close the gap between what CJFS must spend to provide the service and the average client fee of $3.87 per hour. United Way funding enables CJFS to make these services affordable to older adults who otherwise would not have access to them. In many cases, this service helps seniors avoid premature nursing home placement. United Way enables CJFS to help older adults age-in-place with quality care and support”, said Collat Jewish Family Services Executive Director Lauren Schwartz.

Collat Jewish Family Services’ primary focus is supporting independence and enhancing the quality of life for older adults. Services provided with $95,685 of UWCA allocations include counseling, case management, financial assistance, Buz-A-Bus transportation, and CARES.

Positive Maturity

Positive Maturity’s mission is to keep the aging population actively engaged in their communities and living independently for as long as possible. The main way the organization accomplishes this is through three programs: RSVP, Senior Companion, and the Foster Grandparent Volunteer Program. Positive Maturity’s United Way allocation of $647,966 helps to make these programs possible.

RSVP, Retired Senior Volunteer Program

Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

RSVP, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, provides adults 55 and older with opportunities to remain physically and mentally happy and reduce social isolation. RSVP accomplishes this by providing seniors with a variety of meaningful volunteer opportunities that are in convenient locations, meet their schedules, and are possible to complete with their physical abilities. UWCA allocations cover more than half of this program’s expenses.

An RSVP program making a tremendous impact with the help of United Way funding is Blessings in a Backpack. This program provides children in kindergarten through sixth grade in Blount County Schools, who have been identified as needing food assistance, with packages of food to nourish them throughout the weekend. Each package contains two breakfast items, snacks, lunches, and fruits. RSVP volunteers along with others in the community work together to assemble packages and deliver them to the schools on Friday afternoons.

Today, Blessings in a Backpack is at Susan Moore, Locust Fork, Appalachian, and Oneonta Elementary Schools. The program even provides weekend meals for students attending the summer program at Appalachian Elementary. By the beginning of next school year, Blessings in a Backpack hopes to be in Southeastern and Blountsville Elementary Schools.

Not only does Blessings in a Backpack help over 175 families and children each week, but it also benefits older adults. By providing meaningful opportunities for seniors who may be socially isolated, non-active, or may suffer from a variety of illnesses or depression, Blessings in a Backpack is providing another healthy lifestyle activity.

Penny Kakoliris, Positive Maturity Executive Director, said, “Thanks to the United Way of Central Alabama and those who donate for helping us bring Blessings in a Backpack to fruition for Blount County children. Positive Maturity’s RSVP Volunteers have always been considered our eyes and ears for their communities. Volunteers are able to hear and see the issues first hand and share the information with us so we can provide resources, partnerships or concentrated volunteer efforts to meet those needs. Positive Maturity alone cannot meet every need of every community but as a United Way Partner, we have the tools, knowledge, and resources that allow us to be a part of the solution.”

United Community Centers – Riley Center

Riley Center participants. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

United Community Centers, also known as the Riley Center, enhances the quality of life of children, youth, senior adults, and families by providing programs that foster a sense of well-being, develop leaders for tomorrow, and create a compassionate atmosphere for all individuals. Classes offered by UCC include fitness, healthy eating, quilting, and ACT prep.

The Riley Center, located in West Birmingham, also has a food pantry that serves over 300 families a year and a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Voucher program in which seniors receive free produce from June-November. United Way’s allocation of $90,564 contributes daily to the well-being of those served at United Community Centers. One area in particular where allocations have helped is the ACT Prep courses offered four times a year. UCC also takes students from local high schools on a college tour to discuss admissions, financial aid, and housing.

Financial Stability Services – Birmingham Urban League

Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Financial Stability Services are programs designed to help individuals and families become more economically secure by providing job skills training, financial coaching, foreclosure prevention, and other similar services. Birmingham Urban League is one United Way partner agency providing these services.

Birmingham Urban League is a community-based organization dedicated to empowering communities and changing lives in the areas of education, jobs, housing, and health. Programs offered by BUL include Comprehensive Housing Services, Workforce Development, General Education Diploma (GED), and Save Our Sons. United Way’s allocation of $156,795 supports in various areas, especially in the Financial Stability Partnership Initiative BUL and UWCA share.

BUL’s Financial Stability Partnership focuses on helping families in Alabama become more economically secure. Over the past five years, Birmingham Urban League has educated over 5,000 individuals and families on topics such as saving, credit education and restoration, budgeting, investing, and new home buying. Clients who go through the financial education courses often see increases in credit scores, purchase homes, stabilize their financial positions, and become self-reliant. A client who did exactly that is A.Wyatt.

He said, “I attended one of the Urban League’s investing sessions and was glad to be a part. I took my tax return, applied what I learned from the class, and invested it in a real estate fund that pays me monthly versus spending it on material things as I have done in the past.”

500 United Way Allocation Volunteers

Each year United Way relies on over 500 volunteers to help make decisions about which community programs are a good investment upon your donations. It ensures your dollars go where needed most.

United Way supports critical and emerging health and human service issues
that will allow more Central Alabama residents to take advantage of opportunities in the region.

Sponsored by:

Birmingham, United Way of Central Alabama

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.