United Way seeks increased visibility in community


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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 29, 2012
  • Palm Coast Observer
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United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties has a marked presence in the community — its services impact one of every three people — but its administrators want to make their presence known.

“A lot of people have this misconception that United Way doesn’t serve Flagler County,” said Crystal Elkins, director of marketing and events for the nonprofit organization. “But the truth is, 30 of our 37 partner organizations work in Flagler.”

The chapter serving Flagler and Volusia counties is one of 1,300 worldwide branches of United Way, a nonprofit organization that aims for community improvement by focusing on improving education, helping people become financially stable and promoting healthy living. It partners with volunteers, causes and services local to each specific chapter to achieve these goals.

Despite the number of organizations the local branch supports, its presence is largely unknown, said Ray Salazar, its president. To combat that, United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties hosted a Behind the Seas “friend-raiser” event Thursday night, at Marineland Dolphin Adventure.

The event invited community members to enjoy complimentary food and drink as well as a tour of the venue’s facilities before hearing more about United Way’s work and mission.

“We told people to leave their check books at home,” Salazar said. “The night was more about making connections and letting people know we’re here. That’s more important now.”

And the nonprofit organization found another potential avenue for increasing community awareness after a conversation Flagler County commissioners had about the potential creation of a 501(c)3, backed but at least partially separated from the county government, at a workshop earlier this month.

The workshop caught the attention of United Way of Volusia-Flagler.

“We thought, ‘Hey, we already do that,’” Elkins said. “So we wanted to talk with them and see how United Way and the county could better work together to serve the needs of Flagler County.”

During this workshop, Chairwoman Barbara Revels said some people could not or would not donate straight to the county, despite its status as a nonprofit organization. She said removing the government affiliation could generate more donations.

“My thought was to do a sort of umbrella organization — we can call it Friends of Flagler — and have it meet the needs of the community,” Revels said at the workshop. “I think the language of the bylaws could be structured in such a way to benefit those under the umbrella and maximize our fundraising opportunities.”

County officials and United Way staff met Sept. 21 to discuss mutual goals and the potential for a future partnership.

Carl Laundrie, communications manager for Flagler County, said the commission is interested in conversations about how to maximize the resources the county has.

“United Way already partners with a number of organizations as their fiscal representative or their donor-designated representative,” Salazar said. “They establish funds that we manage for them and act on their behalf for. I just wanted to make sure the county knew we were available.”

A partnership with United Way would still give fiscal control to the county, Salazar said, but because his organization is accustomed to funds management, they can maximize donor dollars.

One way fund maximization is accomplished is through matching grants, Elkins said. For example, the Early Learning Coalition of Flagler Volusia, a United Way partner, applied for a grant that gives them a $9 return on every dollar it is given.

United Way of Flagler-Volusia Counties raised more than $1.8 million to support its partner nonprofits. It gives 85% of each dollar it receives directly to the programs it supports.

It hopes to increase these numbers, and to do that, it must be sure that community members know what United Way does, Salazar said. This need prompted the Behind the Seas event, where United Way volunteer Linda Mahran spoke about the impact of her time with the organization, noting that a donation of time or money impacts every community member in some way.

“The community as a whole benefits when more residents are stable,” she said. “The workload in our community is great, and not one entity can take it on on their own.”

United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties’ partner agencies

American Red Cross
The Arc of Volusia
Boy Scouts of America, Central Florida Council
Boys & Girls Club of Volusia/Flagler
Catholic Charities of Central Florida
Center of the Visually Impaired
Children’s Advocacy Center
Children’s Home Society
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc.
Council on Aging of Volusia County
CredAbility (formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Services)
Domestic Abuse Council
Early Learning Coalition of Volusia and Flagler Counties
Easter Seals of Volusia-Flagler Counties
Family Life Center
Family Renew Community
Flagler County School’s Adult Education Department — Summer Camp
Flagler Volunteer Services
Girl Scouts of Citrus Council
Girl Scouts of Gateway Council
Halifax Urban Ministries
Haven Recovery Center
The House Next Door
Jewish Federation of Volusia/Flagler — Social Service Council
Mental Health Association
Mid-Florida Housing Partnership
Neighborhood Center and Thrift Shop
PACE Center for Girls
The Salvation Army of East Volusia and Flagler
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
Second Harvest North Florida (Flagler)
St. Gerard Campus
Stewart-Marchman-Act-Behavioral Healthcare
United Cerebral Palsy of Easy Central Florida
Volusia Flagler Family YMCA
Volusia Literacy Council
West Volusia Police Athletic League

 

 

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