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Economy hitting Rockdale non-profit groups hard

CONYERS -- Local non-profits are facing a difficult time this year with sharp cuts from United Way funding and an increase in the demand for services.

The Rockdale County Advisory Board for United Way voted Monday to distribute a one-time allotment of $20,000 to four agencies providing services locally and which saw their regular United Way funding cut by 60 percent from last year.

The money was allotted by United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta to each of its 13 counties it serves.

Lakeview Community Action Committee will receive $6,000, the Coalition for Children and Families will receive $5,000 and Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale and Refuge Pregnancy Center will receive $4,000 each.

Bill Hughey, chairman of the Rockdale Advisory Committee, said after the vote that some groups have adjusted their fund-raising efforts to cover the drop in United Way funding. Others, however, are so small they depend almost exclusively on United Way.

The Lakeview Community Action Community Center runs a homework club for 25-30 children each day after school in the working class neighborhood made up of mostly Hispanic and African American families.

United Way funds make up 75 percent of Lakeview's total budget. Hughey said Lakeview would have likely shut down in December after hearing they would get $5,792 this year compared to $16,472 from 2010-11.

"Some of these local groups are so focused on delivering services that they don't have the time or manpower to strategize on fund raising," Hughey said. "They're the ones who are getting hurt the most in all of this."

Diane Herrington, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale, said her group is working to find new funding sources. They sponsored trivia night at a local restaurant that included a silent auction, and they hope to do more and bigger events in the near future.

Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale receives United Way funding that makes up 10 percent of its total budget. They received $4,677 this year compared to $15,530 last year.

Herrington said she thinks Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale will be fine with grant applications and support already received through the grant program of the Hospital Authority of Rockdale County.

"We have a waiting list right now for our parenting program for pregnant teenagers and teen parents," she said. "We've got people who've been on the list for a while and they don't need to wait. Their babies are being born and we've got to serve them and figure out a way to do it."

Members of the Rockdale County advisory board who voted Monday said the allotment was definitely needed. United Way funding is down 19 percent. For Rockdale County, funding is down 13 percent.

Programs offered that use United Way funds are down 57 percent in Rockdale County but that is caused by the Boys and Girls Club becoming a regional United Way partner and Sheltering Arms closing its Conyers office in May.

Claire Cline, southern regional United Way director, explained the smaller organizations are feeling the pinch not just from the economic downturn, but also reorganization of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

All organizations were reviewed the same regardless of past participation. The new criteria rated organizations high on success tracking of services and strategic planning.

Cline said the smaller organizations likely do not have the resources to track success rates and were graded lower. She suggests that in the future non-profit organizations that provide similar services may have to band together for United Way funding.

"It will be tough for some folks because they are very close to what they do," she said. "But I can say this. If you apply by yourself I can guarantee you won't get any funding, but collectively you'll have a better shot."