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United Way slashes funds to YSCC

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About 15 children in Yellow Springs who might not have been able to afford it otherwise attended a summer nature, arts or sports camp this year with support from Yellow Springs Community Council. Scores of local seniors were also served through the Yellow Springs Home Assistance Program with Community Council funds this year. The Yellow Springs Food Pantry, the Sea Dogs, the Riding Centre, the Yellow Springs Youth Orchestra and many other organizations have received support from YSCC every year — until now.

In June the YSCC board learned that its annual funding through United Way of Greater Dayton had been cut from about $16,000 down to $700 for the 2012–13 and 2013–14 fiscal years. For some of the organizations YSCC serves, the cuts are critical. Others will either find a way to replace the revenue or reduce the scope of their mission and the number of people they serve. But for nearly all of the small, home-grown organizations, the loss of YSCC funding means a significant budget reduction they aren’t likely to recover without significant burden.

United Way provides 88 percent of YSCC’s annual revenue, and this year’s sudden cut makes it difficult for the local donor organization to meet the needs of local recipients for the remainder of the year. But YSCC has committed 100 percent of its reserve funds of about $9,000 to meeting its obligations for 2012, according to YSCC board chair Pam Conine this week. The board is still weighing its options beyond the 2013–14 year, including folding the philanthropic group started by former Antioch College President Arthur Morgan in 1967.

The funding loss has been disappointing for Conine especially, who worked hard to get this year’s requests funded and then appealed the United Way’s decision in June. The appeal was denied this month due to the United Way’s new “impact model,” which changed its focus to three key areas of health, education and income and committed to funding them equally. Altogether the United Way distributed $2.9 million this year, less than last year’s $3.2 million, which according to the Dayton Daily News meant major cuts for longtime Dayton recipients such as Family Services Association and the American Red Cross, which lost $500,000, a 76 percent reduction from the previous year.

Conine can see the perspective of the United Way which has committed to serving particularly the Montgomery County community’s most vital needs of food, clothing and shelter first, especially in a time of recession. But she finds it difficult to justify the suddenness of the cuts, which while predicted were unexpectedly extreme.

“When United Way started saying things like ‘we are no longer making awards based on past history’ and ‘the umbrella model no longer works,’ I thought uh-oh…but we didn’t expect the rug to be pulled out from under us,” Conine said. “Seven hundred dollars for this year and next year is a joke as far as trying to fund our recipient organizations…We would have liked more time to prepare our recipients.”

The Yellow Springs Sea Dogs, for instance, received $600 through YSCC this year to help local youth to participate in the competitive swim team, and they’re not sure how they will replace the funds.

“[YSCC has] been a good 10 percent of our revenue base. How are we going to pay for those scholarships next year?” Sea Dogs treasurer Rachel McKinley said last week. “Should we increase fees for everyone? Should we give out fewer scholarships? We’re going to have to find that $600 somewhere else.”

YSCC is a nonprofit “umbrella” organization that can receive donations for smaller groups that don’t have the resources or capacity to pay the board and director insurance and provide the annual paperwork necessary for their own nonprofit tax status. While the United Way is currently less interested in funding umbrella groups, it encourages recipients to make applications directly to United Way, said Conine, who is aware that many of the Yellow Springs organizations can’t and won’t do that.

The Sea Dogs, for instance, lacks nonprofit status and cannot receive donations directly but must use a pass-through organization, such as YSCC, to receive funds. The Sea Dogs received a $1,233 grant to purchase equipment from Yellow Springs Community Foundation through YSCC in 2010. The group is not likely to apply to United Way on its own, Sea Dogs Treasurer Rachel McKinley said.

Another YSCC recipient is the Yellow Springs Senior Center, which typically requests about $3,000 a year to fund its Home Assistance Program. That group is also not likely to apply directly to United Way, according to YSSC Director David Scott. The Senior Center is going strong with membership, participation and donations all on the rise, and the organization would more likely increase the goal for its annual appeal than initiate a complicated new application process for a discrete amount of money, he said.

YS Kids Playhouse Board Chair Roger Beal agreed that the local theater group was not likely to apply directly to United Way for the $4,000 it receives annually through YSCC for scholarships. For YSKP, whose board and staff are maxed out managing major grants through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council, YSCC provided a level of administrative support by processing its requests from families needing assistance to participate.

YSCC also funds African American Cross-Culture Works to help put on the Blues Fest, the Yellow Springs Youth Orchestra, the Riding Centre’s therapeutic riding program, the Bryan Center Youth Center, Clifton Senior Center, the Yellow Springs Arts Council, and the food pantry at the Methodist Church. When it started, YSCC had its own community chest and used it to support Arthur Morgan’s belief in the power of small community organizations, the legacy of which still lives in the over 250 nonprofit groups that operate in Yellow Springs. Then in the mid-1970s YSCC was invited to join the United Way and has since received annual funding through that group, with about 12 percent of the revenue also coming from the Combined Federal Campaign and federal employee direct contributions, YSCC Treasurer Doug McKinley said.

There are a few options for the YSCC to consider for its future, but its board members are clear that “We don’t want to be fundraisers,” McKinley said. Conine, whose 30-year teaching career started out at the local middle school named after Arthur Morgan, put all of her efforts into the final application and appeal to United Way this year because she knew how much was riding on it.

“After teaching all those years at Morgan Middle School and seeing his quote on the wall, ‘Until interest is aroused, nothing is accomplished,’ I was feeling so attuned to the mission of the organization he started,” she said. “He was right there standing over my left shoulder when I made the application, and I’m sure he would say, ‘you gave it a good go!’”


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