Representatives of the United Way of Central Maryland, and their supporters in Harford County, celebrated Tuesday the distribution of $215,000 in grants to support seven local nonprofit organizations and a United Way initiative to prevent homelessness in the county.
"I'm really excited to be here, to help announce these wonderful organizations that are receiving funding today," Paige Boyle Kornke, chair of the United Way's Harford County Partnership Board, said during the recognition ceremony.
The ceremony was held Tuesday morning in the Harford County government headquarters in Bel Air.
The partnership board draws its membership from the county government, Harford County Public Schools, Harford Community College and the local business community. Board members raise money, review grant applications and decide which organizations will receive grants.
"We act as the eyes and the ears in the community for the United Way of Central Maryland, trying to help identify the areas of need in Harford County," Kornke said.
Kornke is also director of marketing and customer relations for Boyle Buick GMC Truck, of Abingdon.
The United Way, in turn, recruits board members and raises money regionally while the partnership board oversees local fundraising, as well as develops programs and initiatives that support the umbrella organization's goals of improving education, financial stability and health in communities it serves, Chuck Tildon, the United Way's vice president of government relations and strategic partnerships, explained later.
For 2015, the United Way distributed $140,000 in community operating grants to seven Harford County organizations, and then $75,000 to support the expansion of its regional homeless prevention program in Harford.
The organizations that received operating grants included the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County ($25,000), Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland ($20,000), Harford Community Action Agency ($25,000), Harford Family House ($25,000), Linking All So Others Succeed, or LASOS ($10,000), Mason-Dixon Community Services ($15,000) and the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center, or SARC, which received $20,000, according to a news release.
The homeless prevention initiative is part of the United Way's Family Stability programs, through which 387 families in the region have been helped, Tildon said during the ceremony.
Tildon said 570 children have been able to remain in their "schools of origin," and at least 138 families have been diverted from homeless shelters into housing.
"The homelessness prevention program that United Way has developed has been operating for several years now, and we're happy that it's coming to Harford County," he said.
Len Parrish, director of housing and community development for Harford County government and a member of the partnership board, thanked the United Way for its support of local organizations.
"Our new administration very much values our partnership with United Way of Central Maryland," Parrish said. "We're very excited to renew our partnership."
Parrish said county officials plan to "announce very soon" programs to support Harford residents in need during the upcoming winter and in future years.
"We, as a government, could not provide the services we need without Harford County's nonprofits, our faith-based groups and all of the energy and support that they get from the community itself," he said.
Pamela Overbay, executive director of the Harford Community Action Agency, gave an emotional speech thanking the United Way for its support.
The agency provides a variety of anti-poverty services, including operating the largest food pantry in the county.
She noted the pantry provides food to about 10,000 Harford County residents each year, about 10 percent of the county's population, and it distributes food in bulk to 60 local agencies, such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters, outreach ministries and residential recovery programs.
Overbay said about 40 percent of the food pantry's clients are children, and about 35 percent of the clients have not finished high school.
"Our mission is to do everything that we can to fight hunger in Harford County, and with the United Way's dedication to serving communities with passion and excellence, we have educated and empowered so many vulnerable people," she said.
Luisa Caiazzo, CEO of SARC, said after the ceremony that the fundraising efforts of partnership board members, such as raising money via donations of employees to their employers, help get the word out about organizations such as SARC and their missions.
"The United Way allows us to connect with a larger demographic of people through their workplace giving program," she said.
Caiazzo said United Way grant making "is critical to continuing to offer free shelter and legal services to victims of domestic and sexual violence."
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"So they're essentially funding our lifesaving services to victims," she said. "It's a puzzle, and every piece counts, and that's how we do what we do."