By Robert Pore
More than 50 people had the chance to participate in the Heartland United Way’s Tour of Agencies on Tuesday, visiting each of the 19 beneficiary agencies.
According to Cammie Benson of the United Way, tour participants learn about available community services and ways to get involved.
“The tour is really a great way for people in the community to see their donor dollars at work,” Benson said. “When you give to the Heartland United Way, you can see how the donations are impacting the local community and the four-county area throughout our 19 community partners.”
The Tour of Agencies has been going on for nearly 20 years.
Benson said a wide variety of people attend the tour — from professionals such as teachers to people who just want to learn about the vast array of services provided by the nonprofits. State Sen. Dan Quick was among those attending this year’s tour.
Benson said one of the tour benefits is that participants can make a personal connection with the agencies they support. During the upcoming fundraising drive, she said, donors will be able to give to a specific participating agency or have their gifts shared among all 19 agencies.
The drive started this month and runs through December. The kickoff event will take place in September.
The fund drive is already underway — Heartland United Way staff gave their first presentation at Northwest High School on Monday.
“It is really neat to see our community working together,” she said.
Last year, the drive raised more than $1.4 million. Earlier this year, Go Big Give raised $675,000, which is added to the annual drive’s pledges.
Because the 19 agencies are nonprofits, Benson said there is a sense of urgency for funding. The need for their services is increasing as Grand Island and the four-county area of Hall, Hamilton, Howard and Merrick counties are growing in population, she said.
“That is why the tour is important as it helps the community members see what they are doing and what their needs are like directly from the different agencies,” she said.
Two of the stops during the Tour of Agencies on Tuesday were the Nebraska Children’s Home Society and American Red Cross.
Briana Woodside is the pregnancy, parenting and adoption director of the Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
“United Way is huge support for the community and the surrounding area,” Woodside said. “They support a lot of our programming — in particular, our youth education programs. They also offer a lot of support to a lot of our programs that help us get the word out about our services and activities that are going on here.”
She said the Grand Island office offers foster care services that include family finding services. Other services include pregnancy; parenting and adoption; youth education, and Right Turn, which is post-adoptions for families who have adopted or who have guardianships. The Children’s Home Society also offers counseling and education for parents whose children are in the care of the state, as well as providing them with permanency options.
The Nebraska Children’s Home Society has been in Grand Island for 30 years. It has nine offices throughout Nebraska and is celebrating its 125th anniversary in the state this year.
The Grand Island office is at 1028 N. Webb Road. For more information, contact it at (308) 381-0568 or visit its website at www.nchs.org.
At another stop, Red Cross volunteers Leonard and Shari Guzinski of Grand Island gave tour participants information on how the office in Grand Island uses its Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). During their presentation, the Guzinskis gave examples of how the ERV is used locally — canteen services to the search and rescue participants who helped to find a farm worker in the Cairo area, and the Red Cross response team that was dispatched to aid the victims of a structural fire in Gibbon.
Guzinski also said the ERV is sometimes called upon to help in either a natural or manmade disaster that takes place somewhere in the country. “It can be called at any time to go, naturally,” Guzinski said.
“This is the only ERV in Central Nebraska,” Guzinski said. “Grand Island and Central Nebraska are extremely lucky to have this as a response vehicle.”
The Guzinskis reminded others on the tour that other ways to help the Red Cross are volunteering and giving blood.
The Grand Island Red Cross office is at 404 E. Third. For more information, contact it by phone at (800) 733-2767 or visit its website at www.redcrossblood.org.
The Heartland United Way office is located at 1441 N. Webb Road. Call (308) 382-2675 or go online to www.heartlandunitedway.org for additional information.