For the past several years I have sat on the board of directors of the Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska, headquartered in Kearney and better known simply as "MID."
MID's principle source of funding is an annual federal appropriation through a Community Block Grant, a continuation of President L.B. Johnson's keynote legislation "War on Poverty" in the United States. Programs offered by MID and like agencies include employment assistance, Weatherization, Head Start and Early Head Start, food assistance, housing assistance, utility assistance, and more.
Other funding sources include alphabet acronyms ranging from WIC, Head Start, and United Way, grants provided by the State, local and private organizations and individuals. Many grants require matching funds and MID created a small business called "Beads-in-a-Box" to provide those funds. The corporate business itself exists on the small percentage set aside for administration that is written into each grant award.
In my opinion MID is a very well-run organization. The intent of each grant received is scrupulously carried out. The organizations motto "Helping People. Changing Lives." has made a positive impact on the communities served by MID. It definitely has been a force for good in our region.
The following illustrates of the vagrancies of running an operation with funding from federal or state grants. Just one of the good works by MID was the creation, several years past of two Clinics of Good Health. One was located in Buffalo County and the other Dawson County. Those clinics were funded by appropriations through grants by the State of Nebraska. They were created to serve low income persons who might also be Hispanic, Immigrant/Re-fugee and the under- and uninsured. The public health issues addressed included cardiovascular disease risk factor management, obesity, diabetes diagnosis and treatment, depression and screening for STI's and cancers. Grant funds channeled through MID dried up when the state recently awarded those funds to the local Public Health organization serving those counties.
Unfortunately the majority of the services provided by the clinics managed by MID are no longer in the scope of work for Public Health and the clients had to find other means of health services.
Surprise! Good Samaritan Hospital discovered that those people previously served by MID were coming to their emergency room and their budget for that department, required by law, was rising exponentially. What to do? Good Sam applied to MID, offered a small grant to recreate the Clinic of Good Health in Buffalo County, and asked MID to attempt to match their prospective grant with funds from other sources. It is at present a work in progress.
An indication as to the good work done in our own McCook community was a recent award of funds by the community wide fund drive known as McCook United Way. In three categories of funds requested by local MID entities, the McCook board of directors, significantly awarded more money than requested, a testament to the good works of our own Community Coordinator Barb Ostrum.
Homeless in our community? Unseen to the casual observer, yet their needs are met by the ever vigilant Barb who in the process of tending to those "unseen" individuals encourages them to become self-sufficient. McCook Head Start, a fairly large class that meets in the local YMCA and includes appropriate education and supplemental meals for poverty qualified pre-school children plus education and encouragement to their parents.
A recent interview with another pre-school provider in the community told me that there needs to be another Head Start class to cover more children as they provide more needed opportunity than she is able in her own private pre-school classes.
What then is the problem? Well we the board of directors and the administrators at MID helplessly watch the ongoing fiscal machinations of Congress and foresee that the appropriations to LBJ's War on Poverty may well be on the chopping block. If future Community Block Grants are zeroed out, the ability of MID, and the more than 1,000 other Community Action Agencies throughout the United States will simply cease to exist. The needs of individuals in all our communities will, of course, continue and how will those needs be met?
Obviously there were poor people in need of help in our country before our Federal Government elected to step in and shoulder the burden of charity. In that day it was primarily the churches that stepped up to care for the needy. Private organizations such as our own "Food Pantry" formed to help coordinate and relieve the burden of our churches when individuals would systematically go from church to church presenting their plaintive story receive aid and then be gone. The Salvation Army has always done good work along with the American Red Cross and a host of other benevolent organizations all supported by voluntary charitable contributions.
Each county in Nebraska is charged with providing for the indigent using local tax monies, at present a very small percentage of the budget for Red Willow County.
It hasn't happened yet and the federal funds may indeed continue to flow to all the Community Action Agencies across our nation. Christianity teaches that each of us has a responsibility to care for our fellow man.
Yet a long time liberal movement in our country has all but eliminated Christian teachings in our schools and in large part the government as a whole. How will those needs be met in a future that may well not be too far off?
It is something to ponder and influence each of our decisions at the ballot box.
That is how I was it.