Last updated: February 20. 2013 3:54AM - 414 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – The growing need for social services in the area has the United Way of Wyoming Valley taking a look at how it should operate in the long term.

The organization will still rely on its annual fundraising campaign, but its focus could be narrower, concentrating donor funds on programs addressing root problems, said Bill Jones, president and chief executive officer of the local United Way.

For us we think this is a fundamentally different approach and it could be transformational, Jones said last week.

Over the next year the organization will research and analyze regional data and seek public input to determine if it should alter its approach to meeting the needs of the community. If changes are made, they would occur in 2015 after two more funding cycles.

The United Way operates on the fundraising conduit model, Jones explained. Money raised through the annual campaign is collected by the United Way and distributed to 25 agencies to fund 46 programs. The 2012 campaign raised $4.1 million dollars, approximately $70,000 more than the previous year.

But it's not enough.

There is probably not a single agency that could say the need for services is less than what it was five or 10 years ago, Jones said.

Following the lead of United Ways across the country, the local organization will engage in a serious study on how best to meet those needs and consider switching to a Community Impact model, one that attempts to make lasting changes.

Suppose there was a far away village on a river, Jones said, as he tried to explain the difference between the two models. One day a basket floated down the river and the villagers pulled it ashore to find a baby inside, he said. They raised the child as well as the other children who floated downstream in baskets. One day someone from the village decided to go upstream and see where the babies were coming from, he said.

Nationally, the United Way identified education, income stability and health as key issues. Locally, the United Way will determine if that same template makes sense for us and begin the process by holding community conversations in the coming weeks.

It's the right discussion to have, Jones added.

Community Conversations

The United Way of Wyoming Valley will hold a series of meetings to hear from the public on issues affecting the community and how the agency should deal with them.

The dates and times are:

Feb. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Hoyt Library, 284 Wyoming Ave., Kingston

Feb. 13 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hoyt Library

March 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Odyssey Fitness, 401 Coal St., Wilkes-Barre

Register online at http://unitedwaywb.org/communityconversation or by calling Amy Zawada at 570 829-6711 ext. 222

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