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Local United Way pursuing outside funding to help community during pandemic

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 6 April 2020 at 8:18 am

When Dean Bellack offered his services as director of United Way of Orleans County, he couldn’t have envisioned the challenge ahead with the ensuing coronavirus pandemic.

Dean Bellack

“During a hard time such as this is when charities step up to the plate,” Bellack said. “When you think of United Way you should think of human relief. We are in a time when our lives have been altered, and it is our job is to bring dollars, partnerships and help to those who need it.

Bellack referred to the Buffalo community which just raised $5 million in the past two weeks from corporate donors, philanthropic organizations and community foundations. Being able to help out in a time of crisis improves an organization’s stature and that benefits them in the future when they try to raise money, he said.

Unfortunately, as much as United Way of Orleans County would like to step up and offer assistance now, the allocations for the year have been set, and United Way needs to focus on honoring those allocations. He said the community donations to United Way were up this past year, allowing them to provide funding to all their partner agencies.

However, with the hardships placed on businesses, corporations and individuals with the coronavirus  pandemic, United Way worries whether people will be able to meet their pledges so that United Way can meet its obligations to its agencies. Because of that concern, Bellack is pursuing other funding opportunities.

Bellack’s goal is to position United Way of Orleans County to the place in people’s minds where their mindset is, “When I want to help people, I give to United Way.”

He said that not only means dollars, but also uniting agencies for that purpose, which is a process he has already begun.

The Western New York Fund just announced a connection to the United Way, and Bellack has asked for some specific assistance for food banks and soup kitchens, and the Ministry of Concern and Community Action for housing. This funding will come to Orleans County because of the United Way partnerships.

United Way of Orleans County is registered on the United Way Worldwide network and has the potential to get help from the federal bill which was just passed. The bill designates billions for charity, Bellack said.

Another source of funding which Bellack is pursuing on behalf of United Way of Orleans County is a grant from BlueCross BlueShield’s 2020 Blue Fund. The fund will consider grant requests that address at least one or more health focus areas, such as behavioral health, cardiovascular health, health-care workforce development and healthy children.

Each grant request will be between $100,000 and $300,000.

Bellack has met with the YMCA, Community Action, Ministry of Concern, Praising Kids Childcare, Iroquois Trail Council, The Arc, OCAL’s, and Cornell Cooperative Extension to invite them to join in applying for the funding. This is the first time these agencies have applied together under the United Way.

“Our community and our non-profits are uniting to change our impact,” Bellack said. “The agencies involved in this process are excited and are planning future collaborations going forward.”

“I believe that bringing these agencies together will give us a bigger impact on this and bring in more dollars to Orleans County,” Bellack said.

Bellack and the board want the community to know they are working very hard to remain visible, fulfill their commitments and provide assistance in the future.

The annual Day of Caring scheduled in May has been canceled, but will be rescheduled in the late summer or fall. As of now, the June 5 golf tournament is still a go, but may be rescheduled if necessary, as it is a major fundraiser for United Way.

Bellack’s final comment is, “United Way is neighbors helping neighbors. Please help your neighbor. Help them go to the store. Help them with a meal. Please be generous in what you can do. If you are able to donate, give where your heart leads you.”

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