Kosciusko County Senior Services Executive Director David Neff (L) speaks to the County Commissioners Tuesday about 2022 funding. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Kosciusko County Senior Services Executive Director David Neff (L) speaks to the County Commissioners Tuesday about 2022 funding. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
A bombshell about United Way and its funding for nonprofits was dropped on the Kosciusko County Commissioners Tuesday by Kosciusko Community Senior Services Executive Director David Neff.

Seven nonprofits presented their 2022 budget requests to the Commissioners Tuesday, with Neff giving his presentation last.

He said all the nonprofit agencies funded by United Way got a letter dated March 5. Quoting from the letter, Neff said, “At the completion of the current grant cycle, June 30, 2021, United Way is discontinuing its member agency approach to grant-making. Beginning in fall of 2021, United Way will move to an open application process. The intent is that United Way will outline priorities for funding and nonprofits who address those priorities will be eligible to submit grant applications. More details will be shared in the coming months.”

Neff said United Way is taking steps to becoming a stronger resource for children and families.

“What that means, in my interpretation, is that Senior Services, after 25 years of monthly payments, will not be getting anything from United Way,” Neff said. “We did get some COVID money from United Way. We’re very appreciative of the past funding of United Way, but it’s my interpretation that come June 30, we will no longer be a partner of United Way and we will no longer be receiving monthly payments. That is why the grant application (to the county) is increased to $40,000 to try to offset the coming deficits.”

Neff said they have taking a lot of steps to get more money, but “there’s no other way to say it. It’s going to hurt.”

In a response via email, Darren Bickel, president of United Way of Whitley and Kosciusko Counties, said, “First, I appreciate David Neff's position at Senior Services. He is a wonderful advocate and has done a tremendous job serving seniors during the COVID-19. He is a credit to the organization.

“Over the last 30 days, United Way has approved more than $15,000 in COVID emergency funding to Seniors Services to offset their additional expenses during this extraordinary time.

“United Way is working to become a stronger advocate for families and children. COVID highlighted changes that were necessary. Part of those changes was evolving how United Way distributes resources. Senior Services was given months of notice so they could be in the best position possible to navigate these changes. United Way is still refining our next steps with a formal announcement coming in September,” Bickel stated.

Commissioner Cary Groninger asked Neff during the meeting how much did United Way support Senior Services. Neff said he’s been the director for six years. When he first started, Senior Services got $103,000. Then it went up to $106,000. There was a gradual reduction to $50,000 last year and “now we’ll be at zero,” Neff responded.

Groninger asked what other fundraising efforts or grants has Senior Services applied for. Neff said they’ve done a lot. Kosciusko Community Hospital, Lutheran Network, is going to pay them $1,000 a month to have wraps put on the Senior Services’ vehicles. The Grossnickle Foundation provided a grant of $2,500.

“I’m out there all the time trying to offset that deficit, but it hurts,” Neff said.

The pandemic did cause some of Senior Services’ ridership numbers to decrease, but that’s returning to normal.

Commissioner Brad Jackson said “it was a huge hit” and a hard way to get around that loss.

“I can’t stress it enough. It is a huge hit,” Neff agreed.

He said all the nonprofits in the county received the letter, but it affects Senior Services more because it has such a small budget that $50,000 or $106,000 “is a huge percentage of our budget.”

According to budget request figures provided by County Auditor Michelle Puckett, Senior Services requested $40,000 for 2021 and for 2022.

Other nonprofit requests included: Kosciusko County 4-H Council, $44,347 for 2020, $44,347 for 2021; Cardinal Services, $101,922 for 2021, $104,980 for 2022; Kosciusko Home Health Care & Hospice, $49,020 for 2020, $50,000 for 2021; Kosciusko County Historical Society, $25,000 for 2020 and 2021; Beaman Home, $40,000 for 2021 and 2022; St. Joseph River Basin, $3,705 for 2021 and 2022.

Neff wasn’t the only one who mentioned the United Way funding cut in his presentation.

Beaman Home Director Jennifer Hayes said that along with a 12% cut from a mid-sized state grant, “United Way funding is changing the way that they manage projects. We typically use that as our HUD match for housing. Because that is changing, we’re a little concerned about the amount of money we’re going to be able to spend housing people. Last year, we spent about $120,000 housing 13 families, 27 individuals.”

While not mentioning United Way specifically, Kosciusko Home Care & Hospice Executive Director Glenn Hall said, “Not unlike many nonprofit agencies this year, we’re facing some pretty drastic cuts in our funding. Just redirection of money, or funds that aren’t available, from other agencies and people who are just trying to get back on their feet financially and aren’t able to donate to us.”

He said Home Care & Hospice is trying to think outside of the box and is looking at having a dedicated fundraiser.

In other business, the Commissioners:

• Approved Community Corrections Director Barry Andrew’s request to apply for 2022 Drug Court and Home Detention grants. He also will seek approval to apply for the grants from the County Council Thursday.

• Recognized county employees who participated in the Purdue Extension Get Walking program. Extension Educator Jackie Franks said 84 county employees were enrolled with 25 other community participants. It lasted 12 weeks, with over 37 million steps taken, over 286,000 ounces of water consumed and over 1,760 stress-relieving activities were completed.

Five county employees had over 1 million steps over the 12 weeks. They were Monica Medina-Conde, Brooke Greer, Michelle Hyden, Cheryl McGettrick and Amy Irwin.

• Approved the contract renewal for Sophos, anti-virus protection for the county computers, for three years at a cost of $29,677.50, as requested by Bob Momeyer, county IT department.

• Approved the purchase of two picnic tables for the county jail cellblocks for $6,524, as requested by County Administrator Marsha McSherry.

• Approved County Highway Superintendent Steve Moriarty’s request to buy two single-axle dump trucks from the National Auto Fleet Group. The trucks are $196,742.98 each.