United Way awarded $450K grant from Greater Rochester Health Foundation

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 21 May 2021 at 10:13 am

Funding includes a grantwriter who will assist non-profit agencies

MEDINA – A $450,000 grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation is a game changer for Orleans County, said Dean Bellack, director of United Way of Orleans County, who realized several years ago how beneficial a grant writer would be for the county.

The Health Foundation announced last week that Orleans County’s grant request for nearly half a million dollars had been approved, and the United Way would be receiving $449,291 over a period of five years. The money will pay for a full time grant writer, who will be available to non-profit agencies, and for a second employee, who will work on fundraising out of United Way’s office at 3217 South Gravel Rd.

United Way recently moved from its Albion location, after sale of the CRFS building on East Avenue, to the South Gravel Road location, where space has been donated  by  United Way Board President George Bidleman.

Bellack first came up with the idea of a grant writer about eight years ago when he led a successful campaign to raise nearly $750,000 for the YMCA renovations. He began talking about a grant writer position right after he joined the United Way board on April 1, 2019.

The new grant writer will focus solely on Orleans County for the first year and then during the second year will be available in Genesee County. Bellack noted there are several non-profit agencies which are affiliated with both counties, such as Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, the Arc of Genesee Orleans and the Genesee Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO Art!).

“The Health Foundation gave us a tremendous amount of trust,” Bellack said. “They told us to create this position and then integrate it into the community, which we will eventually do – in Orleans and Genesee counties. This is a long-term commitment from them. They believed in our vision.”

Bellack said the grant writer position greatly amplifies the United Way’s ability to bring in more money for local agencies for a long time to come. These agencies have had not had the consistent ability to monitor the grant world. Most, if not all, agencies in rural communities are running lean, he said. This position adds capacity to the agencies and the county.

Nyla Gaylord, director of the Ministry of Concern, is experienced in grant writing and made Bellack aware of the Health Foundation last fall. She wrote the grant requesting funds to hire a grant writer. Her request included letters of support from 17 areas in the county, from County Legislature Chair Lynne Johnson to the majority of agencies funded by United Way. Bellack said the Foundation requested ideas and 52 responses were received. That number was reduced to 17 during the second round, which included the United Way.

“Every non-profit in the county is excited to learn our grant request has been approved,” Bellack said.

“We are glad to see this response to our grant request,” said Renee Hungerford, director of Community Action. “We have an important project for which we desperately need a grant writer, so this person can’t start soon enough from our perspective.”

Bellack said he has no doubt all non-profits share her words.

Health Foundation president and CEO Dr. Matt Kuhlenbeck thanked United Way for their patience during the process and congratulated the organization on the grant.

“We strive to bring equity and community voice into our grantmaking and understand that community-wide challenges require community-wide solutions,” Kuhlenbeck said. “This practical and critical effort addresses the imbalance of funding that the pandemic has exacerbated, while building off the collaboration and dedication of rural providers essential to responding to the health needs within their community. Demonstrating the type of capacity building we strive to accomplish while serving our rural communities, we are proud to be a supportive partner in these efforts.”

Bellack has put together a team of professionals committed to be involved in hiring this grant writer and managing the community integration which will be so important to non-profits in Orleans County, and eventually Genesee County. With Bellack, the team includes Renee Hungerford from Community Action, Don Colquhoun from OCALS, Nyla Gaylord from Ministry of Concern, Robert Batt from Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ken DeRoller representing local government and United Way board members Jackie Gardner and Jodi Gaines.

“This group of committed individuals represent how we have come together for the betterment of our county,” Bellack said.

Bellack said since posting ads for the two positions, United Way has received 20 resumes for the grant writer – from Orleans County to New York City and Minnesota. He plans to announce hiring of the part-time fundraiser by the end of the month.