In addition to the annual funding provided to programs delivered through 34 agency partners, United Way of Berks County announced that 31 community organizations received grants in 2018 to support a broad range of health and human service programs and activities in the areas of education, financial stability, health and safety net services. Grant recipients included 5 agency partners, with 26 recipients being other area nonprofits. The grants were approved by United Way’s Board of Directors. During 2018, a total of $580,205 was awarded in response to community needs and to improve the quality of life for Berks Countians.
“United Way is pleased to award these grants to local nonprofits and support pressing challenges. Our Community Impact Cabinet consistently evaluates changing and emerging community needs and recommends grant dollars to create the greatest impact across our county. The grants help fund many crucial and innovative programs to improve the lives of local people. Through a community-wide approach, we’re making a significant impact and helping area children, families and older adults,” says Tammy White, President, United Way of Berks County.
Over $80,200 in Rapid Response Grants were awarded to six different organizations this year. These grants are designed to provide immediate funding for health and human service nonprofit organizations experiencing unanticipated changes in financial circumstances jeopardizing a critical program’s ability to be effective and causing negative consequences to clients and the community. Alternatively, funding may address a significantly increased demand for services that exceeds the organization’s capacity to meet with current financial resources.
Rapid Response Grants awarded this year supported an array of organizations and issues, including increased case management supporting the homeless, emergency renovations to an agency that experienced severe building damage due to flooding, supporting the growing need around winter weather “Code Blue” shelter for women and children and expanding services for a homeless youth program. The recipients are: Family Promise of Berks County, Hope Rescue Mission, Literacy Council of Reading-Berks, Lutheran Campus Ministries at Kutztown University and Opportunity House.
In addition, United Way awarded three Venture Grants this year, which provide one-time funding in support of new or expanded programs responding to needs of underserved populations or geographic areas. This year, these grants totaled $100,000 and were awarded to organizations funding programs designed to address needs of disconnected youth and homeless and/or unaccompanied youth, which has been cited as an increased community need. Berks County’s rate of unaccompanied youth (youth age 17 and under who is not residing with a legal guardian) is noted at 17%, which is higher than the state average of 14%. The recipients are Family Promise (expansion of the U-Turn program serving youth from all school districts and offering case management and drop-in center facilities and resources), Mary’s Shelter (providing a drop-in center and the county’s first shelter system for youth ages 16-18) and Reading School District (addressing barriers to help disconnected and homeless teens complete high school).
LIVE UNITED Grants, one-time grants of up to $5,000 provided to grass-roots or community-based organizations with a yearly budget below $250,000, were awarded to several organizations focusing on creative projects bringing people together to improve the quality of life for Berks County residents. LIVE UNITED Grants totaling nearly $29,500 support the following organizations/programs: 18th Wonder improvement Association (youth engagement activities), Antietam Valley Recreation and Community Center (community park/playground project), Barrio Alegria (community engagement through the arts), Million Youth Chess Club (connecting mentors to Berks County children), Oley Valley Community Library (enhancing library’s programming) and Wood – to – Wonderful (literacy-outreach programming).
Grants supporting Ready.Set.READ! early grade reading programs totaled over $87,700 and were awarded to the Reading Public Library, Yocom Institute for Arts Education and several programs associated with Berks Summer Learning Coalition, which were designed to lessen the summer learning slide for elementary students.
Community Impact Grants totaling over $282,500 were presented to a broad range of organizations and issues, including the following: Berks County Coalition to End Homelessness (helping families coming out of homelessness with acquiring furniture/home essentials), Berks County Intermediate Unit (educational programming for students now enrolled locally who were displaced by Hurricane Maria), Berks Early Learning Coalition (advocacy/awareness/data collection activities), Berks Encore (supporting VITA tax site), Berks Initiative for School Attendance (supporting seminar series for parents of elementary/middle school students having school attendance problems), Birdsboro Community Center (supporting final phase of infrastructure improvements to house after-school and literacy programs), Centro Hispano (supporting VITA tax site), Clare of Assisi House (supporting case management and educational programming for non-violent women transitioning out of prison into the community), Easterseals of Eastern Pennsylvania (providing early intervention through “Make the First Five Count” initiative), Hawk Mountain Council: Boy Scouts (expand STEM programming in urban areas, as well as in Birdsboro area), Holy Spirit Church (after-school programming for Centre Park area, in partnership with Olivet Boys & Girls Club), Hope Rescue Mission (help furnish Safe Haven Emergency Shelter),IM ABLE Foundation (expanding fitness programming for disabled individuals), Mentors for Berks Youth (student and mentor engagement), Kutztown Strong (substance abuse prevention programming for area students), New Journey Community Outreach (food pantry/soup kitchen operations), Reading Risk Reduction (supporting a STD prevention program), Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Veggies RX (expand nutrition program aimed to combat obesity and chronic illness), and Wilson School District (kindergarten preparedness program).