The United Way of Central Indiana, UWCI, is consolidating its operations and closing county offices throughout the region in order to “more effectively serve” Central Indiana.
The Lebanon office, housed in the Boone County Chamber of Commerce building at 221 N. Lebanon St., is scheduled to close Aug. 5. United Way has had an office in this area for more than 25 years.
But Aaron Gore, the Lebanon office director, said the change will allow him to more effectively serve the area, which pleases the Zionsville resident, who said he will maintain a home office and spend at least 75 percent of his work time in Boone County.
Greg Fennig, chief marketing, communications and community relations officer for United Way of Central Indiana, said that by moving operations to the organization’s headquarters at 2955 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, United Way of Central Indiana would be able to work more cohesively for the counties it serves.
“We’re doing that because we are believing that we can do a better job of serving the people in all of the counties by having a more collaborative environment for our teams that are responsible for each county,” Fennig told a reporter. “What had happened in the past is that we’d inadvertently created our own silos within the organization.”
Fennig said the consolidation will allow United Way representatives to attend more community events.
Gore said the consolidation frees him from some of the many roles he played as the sole director in Lebanon. He used to have to meet fundraising goals, work with new businesses, run the office and budget, and more.
Now a team of people performs those tasks, while he focuses on the people in his district.
“My sole focus is how to create deeper relationships and impact the community,” he said.
Gore said he will work with central community impact and fundraising teams to better serve people in the north district.
The poverty level in Central Indiana dropped 24 percent from 2010-14; at the same time more people fell into another category called ALICE.
ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, these are families that are one emergency or unplanned expense away from poverty. According to UWCI estimates, 6,400 Boone County residents fit that classification.
The UWCI 2018 ALICE report indicated that 38 percent of households in Boone County are financially unstable. In Marion County, 47 percent of households were unable to afford basic needs.
“Poverty, overall, is decreasing,” Gore said. “Now, how do we elevate ALICE households to self-sufficiency?”
“We’re going to seek opportunities to become much more integrated into the community … It’s actually a very exciting time,” he said.
There are five UWCI accredited agencies in Boone County: Boone County Senior Services, the Boys & Girls Club of Boone County, Arc of Greater Boone County, the Boone County Cancer Society, and Witham Family YMCA.
Another 53 agencies outside the county serve Boone County residents in need, ranging from the American Red Cross to Fairbanks Treatment Center.
The consolidation should not change the level of service residents receive, except to improve it, Gore said.
That’s good news for the Arc. The UWCI helped with the last building campaign and fundraisers there, said Pam Verbarg, Arc executive director.
While the UWCI provides about 1 percent of the Arc’s annual budget, the money is unrestricted, which gives Verbarg flexibility. She used UWCI money to help a jobless man get a job last month.
The man, who had impaired hearing, did not qualify for help with other funding, but Verbarg’s staff was able to help him prepare for employment and attend a job fair with UWCI funds. He received several offers at the job fair and is now employed, she said.