Growing needs and shrinking funds seems to be the mantra of agencies that serve the most vulnerable populations, and the 20 agencies and programs that have applied for funding from the Westfield United Fund are no different. Each March, the Westfield United Fund convenes a committee of Westfield residents to review funding requests from member social service agencies for the following year.
The members of this year’s Fund Distribution Committee include:
Front row, left to right, John Toriello, Liz Mitchell Ryan, Karin Heffron, Colleen Echausse, Susan Taylor, and Rick Malacrea. Back row, left to right, Colleen McDonald Maz, Marcee Rogers, Gwyneth Cote, Kate Fleshler, George Kunath and Jon Walker.
Not pictured: Jeff Pinkin
Colleen Echausse, the chair of the Fund Distribution Committee, challenges her group to distribute over a half of a million dollars among agencies that transport senior citizens, deliver meals to homebound citizens, provide shelter and counseling to domestic abuse victims, counsel the depressed, and so much more.
For Echausse, whose committee is charged with reviewing funding for programs from the Westfield United Fund’s member agencies, the task has been more challenging in recent years, due to the economic climate. “Many non-profits have had their funding cut, while their client base continues to increase,” Echausse said. “People are hurting.”
The 13 residents on the Fund Distribution Committee spend hundreds of hours over a three-month period, interviewing agency directors, reviewing financial information and evaluating the effectiveness of programs and services. Each agency is responsible for answering questions on the achievements of their programs, how many people they are serving, what alternative sources of income are available to them, and what problems they could encounter in the next year.
After reviewing and evaluating the agencies' requests, the committee then weighs the needs of both the community and each agency to determine how the funds are to be allocated. “This year’s combination of increasing needs and fewer available funds makes the allocation process more difficult,” said John Schmidt, President of the Westfield United Fund Board of Trustees.
Once the Westfield United Fund Board of Trustees approves the final recommendations from the committee, the 2012 campaign goal will be established and the money raised will be distributed beginning in 2013. Throughout the entire process, Echausse said, the Fund Distribution Committee never loses sight of the residents who donate to the Westfield United Fund. "The caring and financial support of our residents truly reflects the Westfield spirit of outreach and giving to others,” she said. “They can be comforted by the knowledge that their gift will go far --- but not far away.”
The Westfield United Fund member agencies include: The American Red Cross, The ARC of Union County, the Boy Scouts, CASA, Central Jersey Legal Services, the Cerebral Palsy League, Community Access Unlimited, CONTACT We Care, the Girl Scouts, the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Services, Literacy Volunteers of Union County, Mobile Meals of Westfield, Prevention Links, UCPC Behavioral Healthcare, the Westfield Day Care Center, the Westfield “Y”, YWCA Eastern Union County, and Youth and Family Counseling Services.