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United Way funds new agencies, defunds others

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Change is in the air at the United Way of Northern New York — and it has left bad feelings with at least one longtime United Way partner.

United Way officials say an annual review of its partner agencies’ commitment to serving needy families and being fiscally responsible and accountable has led to funding of new partners and defunding of long-standing partners during the 2013 community review program grant process.

“We’re looking for outcomes and the agency’s willingness to collaborate,” said Jayn M. Graves, United Way chief professional officer.

The United Way’s three-step community review process led to the defunding of $49,000 to Family Counseling Service of Northern New York, $6,000 to the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Jefferson County and $2,000 to the Community Wellness Program at Lewis County General Hospital, Lowville.

Miss Graves said the Association for the Blind remains a great partner agency, but had to be defunded since the agency continuously operates on a deficit basis. The Community Wellness Program was defunded, she said, because its request to put on a hearing impairment clinic wasn’t deemed a priority.

Family Counseling Service was not funded because of its monthly deficits, a lack of communication with the United Way about a loan from the Watertown Trust and lack of a solid plan for financial stability, according to a United Way letter.

Family Counseling Service board member Lisa A. Weber said the counseling agency’s board felt the tone of the letter, signed by United Way board Chairwoman Jane V. Schmitt, was “harsh.”

“Our organization has had more than a 50-year relationship with the United Way,” Mrs. Weber said. “I would certainly hope it’s not the end of the relationship with the United Way. United Way funds are extremely important to the agency.”

Mrs. Weber, Timeless Frames, Timeless Decor and Timeless Expressions CEO, said board members plan to communicate with the United Way about its concerns with Family Counseling Service.

The $49,000 was used to help fund the cost of family services and a women’s empowerment program.

New grants include $20,000 to the Watertown Urban Mission; $3,000 to New Day Children’s Center; $3,000 to the Lowville Food Pantry; $2,000 to the Double Play Sports Community Center, Lowville, and $3,675 to Rose Hill, Massena, which offers youth rehabilitation services.

Meanwhile, Watertown Urban Mission Executive Director Erika F. Flint said the mission’s first United Way grant will help fund its Critical Needs Program. She said the “significant program” is underfunded, as it relies on donations of supplies and money from area organizations, churches and individual supporters.

A total of $490,300 in program grants was awarded to more than 30 agencies throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Money booked for the 2013 campaign thus far includes $598,836 in Jefferson County, $121,775 in St. Lawrence County and $60,385 in Lewis County. The entire campaign, including donations from state and federal employee contributions, totaled $1,101,526. Miss Graves said campaign books will close in December, so that amount is expected to rise.

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