Enabling a Successful Transition

by Michael Stephan, Heart of Illinois United Way

The Heart of Illinois United Way knows firsthand that nonprofit organizations can achieve more working together than they can alone. Bringing people and organizations together across private, nonprofit and governmental sectors, the United Way holds a unique position in the local health and human care industry—the role of facilitator.

When the YWCA of Peoria announced it would close this fall, a crisis for our homeless population was averted because of the proactive collaboration of several agencies and the United Way. Through the Continuum of Care and United Way, the South Side Office of Concern, Goodwill, Salvation Army, The Center for Prevention of Abuse, Prairie State Legal Services, Human Service Center and City of Peoria came together to ensure families and children would have a place to stay, not only for one night, but would have housing solutions into the future.

In the days following the closing of the YWCA, representatives offered support and resources to help meet the needs of those left to fend for themselves without the services it had provided. The South Side Office of Concern has taken over the YWCA's shelter, transitional housing and permanent housing programs. As a United Way agency, the South Side Office of Concern's efforts will make for a successful transition and ultimately, make the situation better for the families and individuals affected.

When the Heart of Illinois United Way invests in a program, we make certain it remains in operation for people in need. Over the past few years, the United Way has actively engaged with community leaders to form other effective partnerships and collaborations. When the Visiting Nurses Association was no longer able to operate its home-delivered meals program, the United Way facilitated the program's move to Neighborhood House, which had the capacity to offer additional meals more efficiently.

A few years ago, the YMCA decided daycare services fell outside of its mission. The United Way helped transition families, resources and curriculum to Neighborhood House, which offered a better facility to serve them. And when critical programs and services offered by Catholic Charities needed to move to the Center for Youth and Family Solutions, the United Way ensured funding was moved to the new agency so clients did not have a disruption in services.

With changes in the economy, it is no longer acceptable for health and human care agencies to operate on a day-to-day basis—they must be strategic and look to the future. With the closing of the YWCA, local leadership and resources came together to illustrate how positive collaboration results from a proactive approach.

As a resource for our community, the United Way is often the “rescuer” in a crisis. Our ability to respond to needs ensures that clients, as the recipients of the programs and services we fund, receive the critical help they need. iBi

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