Aug. 06--CULLMAN -- With donations down and the agency struggling to make ends meet, the United Way of Cullman County has announced a 35 percent across-the-board cut for all allocations currently provided to local non-profits.
Sammie Danford, executive director of United Way of Cullman County, met with local agencies this week to discuss allocation funding. Due to a decrease in donations, funding will be prorated beginning Aug. 1, 2014, for the remainder of the fiscal year.
"This is obviously a difficult decision for myself and the United Way board," Danford said. "In order to remain operational, prorating agencies' funding has become necessary. With a community as supportive and close knit as Cullman, I am sure we will be able to restore funding as soon as possible."
Danford, who took over the agency one year ago, noted donations have decreased by approximately $120,000 per year over the past five years, which made proration necessary to ensure the United Way can remain operational. Danford said they've also cut administrative costs at the office.
United Way currently funds more than a dozen different agencies in the Cullman County area, including Cullman Caring for Kids food bank, Cullman County Center for the Developmentally Disabled, Victim Services, the Good Samaritan Health Clinic, 4-H Clubs of Cullman County, American Red Cross, Commission on Aging, Daystar House, Easter Seals, First Call for Help, Foster Grandparents and Senior Companionship Program, Girl Scouts, Hospice of Cullman County, Pilot Light House and the Youth Advocate Program.
Javon Daniel, director of Cullman Caring For Kids food bank, said the funding cuts will take a major toll on his agency's ability to purchase food for needy families across the county. But, he said he understands the constraints the United Way is operating within.
"It's going to take a really big chunk of the funding we get from United Way, several thousand dollars. We're going to feel it. It's going to effect the food bank, because we use most of the money from the United Way to purchase food, and when you cut that down substantially, we're going to feel the pinch," he said. "They have things they have to do, to be able to help all the agencies, and this is one of them. When the recession was on, they were able to continue to level fund us, and at some point in time things have to change. The United Way is a wonderful asset to this community."
Cullman County Red Cross director Lorraine Lee noted the cuts will affect her agency's budget, but said the Red Cross would continue to operate and respond to needs as they arise.
"We appreciate the United Way so much in all they do, and we understand the trying economic times for everyone, and we support them and hope things will turn around quickly," she said. "Obviously, the services we give to people, like following up on home fires and disaster services, it affects our bottom line. But we're going to keep on going no matter what."
Danford said her staff, as well as the agency's volunteer board, is already making plans to shore up funding and hopefully increase allocations back to previous levels as soon as possible.
"There are a lot of barriers, but we have lots of plans to get out and let people know we're still here," she said. "We now have a true picture of the financial situation and know exactly where we are. So, we're working to find areas where we can improve. We're looking to companies that used to give and we're going to try and rekindle those relationships. There are also new businesses that have come into the area, and we'll be reaching out to them."
The agency also hopes to revitalize its visibility in the community, by reimplementing the loaned executive program to involve local businesses, as well as revamping the United Way Day of Caring work day event.
"We're trying to get that public presence back out there, so people understand the impact these agencies make everyday in the community," Danford said. "Ninety-eight percent of all funds raised in Cullman County remain here and fund 14 wonderful agencies that serve our residents in need. We want people to know that."
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