More on United Way programs

Published 8:02 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dear Editor,

First, on behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of West Central Alabama Rehabilitation Center, we thank you for the coverage you are giving all of the United Way funded programs in Selma and Dallas County during the United Way’s annual fund drive. It is critical that businesses and individuals know where their hard earned money is going if they are to be expected to donate it.

I would like to clarify a few points regarding our Special Preschool Education Center in the Tuesday, 17 November article. Whether through miscommunication or mistyping, there are a few things that are more than a little off key.

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Yes, 100% of our employees are Fair Share givers. However, we do not specifically ask our staff to designate their donation back to our program; we feel supporting the United Ways capacity to support all programs is equally important.

The Special Preschool Education Center was initially developed in 1984 – in conjunction with the initiation of Early Intervention Services under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (Prior to Part C being enacted, The Cahaba Center partnered with State Children’s Rehabilitation to provide the birth to three Early Intervention service.) Children attendance in the SPEC program, including how many days a week they attend, is determined by each child’s Individualized Education Plan that is developed with the parents, teachers and specialists involved in the child’s eduction. On average, we have 30 children on roll at any given time, with the capacity to serve up to 40 children. We do not, however, have “40 staff members running the program.” Across of the Rehabilitation Center’s operations, we have fewer than 20 employee’s total.

As with all of our programs, we utilize as many supports and external resources as we can to maximize the service use of the limited funding we have. During the school year, we utilize a cooperative agreement with Head Start to provide transportation for the children. Only during the summer, when Head Start is not in session, do we ask parents to provide transportation for their children. Because the Summer program is completely unfunded, we do not have additional resources to run a transportation service. But that is only during the summer months.

The other program we have that is a recipient of United Way funding is listed as the Crippled Children and Adults Association, but is better known as the Dallas County Chapter of Easter Seals. The transportation assistance that funding provides is a stipend to aide children who are being sent to special clinics in Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and other farther removed areas. That program is coordinated with the State Children’s Rehabilitation Service. The primary reason for that stipend is that Medicaid reimbursement for travel is only about 11 cents per mile.

Yes, we have had to make some adjustments due to the economy. But not all of those adjustments are due to reductions in donated dollars. Some of those reductions were due to pro-ration at the State level in funding for the services we provide in our adult services. Unlike State agencies, we initially address funding cuts by cutting expenses – not services. The latest changes we are facing at the Center focus on business operations. Our primary goal at this time is to be maintain our ability to deliver the same level of services.

The operational changes we are making, however, are absolutely not designed to be irreversible. Our full intent is to restore all operations to full capacity when economic conditions are more favorable.

Finally, in regards to the application process for United Way funding, it is certainly a lot more strenuous than it used to be. This is a good thing. We believe it needs to be more strenuous; when you are playing with other people’s money, you better be able to show how it was spent and that is was spent only on what you said it would be.

The organizations that are supported by the United Way all have very unique missions, they all provide services that someone you probably know has found to be invaluable. And we could all use considerably more funding than we receive. The only way that happens is for everyone to support the United Way.

David White