Changing economic times for nonprofit benevolent groups are prompting the Lake Area United Way to change its focus.
Fortunately for the Region, that focus is taking on all the sharpness of a sniper's scope on one of our region's most pressing issues — working families facing financial hardship.
Lake Area United Way CEO Lisa Daugherty recently announced the changing focus of the nonprofit powerhouse, which is adopting the ALICE model to assess and aid Northwest Indiana's working poor.
The ALICE system, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, offers an assessment of the folks in need. The United Way's new focus on the struggling, low-income families with working parents finally tosses out outdated state and federal "poverty line" benchmarks for determining who deserves help.
Daugherty's announcement is all part of the local United Way's efforts to refocus resources and make the money count — all part of what is dubbed a "community impact" model.
A 30 percent decline in revenue for its annual community campaign over the years has forced the local United Way branch to reassess its traditional role as "middle-man" between donors and a plethora of service organizations.
Given the large percentages of economically struggling families in our region, the Lake Area United Way is putting the right issue in the crosshairs.
Daugherty's organization notes 25 percent of Lake County households fall into the working-poor category.
A Times investigation of region economic data last year showed 13 cities and towns spanning Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties have higher percentages of poverty than the national average.
Nationally, about 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, according to previous U.S. Census estimates. In Lake County, that number climbs to nearly 20 percent; in LaPorte County, 17 percent.
Leading the way is Gary, where 39 percent of residents were living below the federally defined poverty line, according to 2012 census estimates.
The Lake Area United Way deserves credit for making some tough decisions. It means a big change for the organizations that have grown accustomed to funding from the large nonprofit.
But in the end, the Lake Area United Way has chosen to serve the greater good of those most in need by focusing on struggling families already trying to help themselves.
Originally Published - 10/28/2015 - The Times of Northwest Indiana - as authored by its Editorial Board
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