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United Way Changing Direction To Focus On Poverty

The United Way of the Big Bend is tightening its focus. Under a new strategic plan, the organization wants to fund programs and proposals targeting early learning, housing, financial literacy and workforce training.

Board Chairman Skip Foster says it’s a response to changing times in the giving sector, coupled with targeting community needs.

“The way people interact and give of their time, talent and treasure is different and we need to evolve to meet those challenges," he said. "That, and it was time to really look at what this community is focused on, what’s the most pressing need.”

The agency plans to release further details in the fall ahead of the 2019 campaign season. The changes come on the heels of its annual report on poverty in the eight-county Big Bend Region it serves.   

The United Way is now operating under its first strategic plan and wants to target it's giving toward  housing, early learning, workforce training and support for low-income retirees. In its most recent study on poverty in the area, it found 40 percent of people are struggling to meet their basic needs. And in an op-ed last month in the Tallahassee Democrat, it revealed more than half of the groups it funds received budget cuts as a result of declining revenue.

The change in focus also means agencies that want funding will have to show proposals that fall under United Way's Strategic Plan. Those that don't fit in could lose funding as the agency switches its focus to poverty. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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