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WITH a dramatic increase in allocations to nonprofit agencies that focus on financial stability and independence for their clients, the United Way of Bartholomew County has placed a new emphasis on self-sufficiency programs.
At the same time, it has put its stamp on a decades-old philosophy in Columbus that had a grass-roots beginning and a belief that local institutions can make a difference in helping people help themselves.
In announcing its allotments, officials of the local United Way organization declined to break them out by agency, instead listing distributions by the category of the services provided by the agencies.
While the largest share of the distributions went to agencies that promote emotional health and well-being ($813,000), the amount set aside for those groups boosting financial stability ($330,000) represented the largest hike in terms of percentages over the previous year (15 percent). Most of the money will go to job-related needs, including transportation.
While there are numerous state and federal programs relating to job training, this community is somewhat unique in that a great deal of support for these local efforts comes from within.
For instance, Sans Souci — a thrift store that helps provide basic needs and programs for low-income residents — is one of a number of local employers willing to hire workers with felonies related to offenses such as drugs and thefts.
The United Way also is encouraging efforts to find entry-level jobs for those who regularly have lost positions and to provide job coaches to help people stay employed.
These approaches echo earlier local initiatives such as the Project Self Sufficiency program that was launched here in the mid-1980s during the mayoral administration of Bob Stewart. The program was essentially a private sector initiative that sought to provide hands-on aid to area individuals and families seeking to escape dependence on government welfare programs.
It touched a variety of levels in the needs expressed by clients — providing assistance for child care, low-interest loan programs that could be acquired for the purchase of used cars and educational programs on such subjects as appearance and demeanor when applying for jobs.
These efforts proved successful in a number of individual cases. The results were instrumental in Columbus being designated an All American City in 1994. Eventually, Project Self Sufficiency was folded into the Columbus Housing Authority.
In a sense, this effort and others like it can be seen as seed investments that are still bearing fruit today, now most notably through this added emphasis on helping residents achieve financial stability.
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