They made it.
United Way of Central Kansas reached its 2011 campaign goal of $235,000, UWCK Executive Director Julie Bugner-Smith announced Friday. A $12,483.24 contribution from the disbanded Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of Central Kansas broke the top out of the fundraising thermometer.
“This donation put us over the top,” Bugner-Smith said. “We are grateful that the Board members of the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program considered United Way of Central Kansas for these funds.”
Last week the VORP Board of Directors met and determined how to best shut down the organization. There are two other active VORP programs currently in the state, but the board felt that since the money was raised locally that it needed to stay local.
So, the board voted unanimously to transfer the remaining funds to UWCK. “These funds will go a long way to help the 19 agencies and their programs,” Bugner-Smith said.
In March of 1996, Larry Hesed along with a board of eight people formed the non-profit VORP. The organization’s funding was initially started with a grant from the Showalter Foundation and the Dominican Sisters.
Until 2010, the VORP program has been bringing victims and offenders together in a safe mediation setting to permit the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions, to make things as right as possible with the victim, and to be clear about future intentions. Cases were received from the Barton County Attorney’s Office and Great Bend Municipal Court.
Volunteer mediators Hesed and Sister Terry Wasinger met with victims and offenders, in 209 completed cases. Most cases were resolved between the two parties without the case going to court. This allowed the offender to make restitution to the victim and prevented them from having a criminal record.
The VORP program has been funded by the selling of Dillon’s certificates at three local businesses and the Mennonite Church in Pawnee Rock.
In February of 2010, Hesed was diagnosed with leukemia and could not continue the work of the program. Since he and Wasinger were the only two mediators and teen court had resumed again, the organization cease to function last year.
After Hesed passed away in November it became obvious that decisions had to be made concerning the program.
Current VORP board members are Sister Terry Wasinger, Naomi Bates, Scott Eckberg, Jim Pitts, Mike Keeley, Phyllis Vogt, Lori Waters.
This marks the second year for UWCK, which now includes Pawnee County. It is the 49th campaign for Barton County.
The goal was increased, Bugner-Smith said, because the board saw an increased need and funding cuts experienced by many of the groups UWCK serves. UWCK helps the 19 agencies and 99 percent of what is raised stays in the communities it covers.
“Every dollar we raise is crucial to the effort,” Bugner-Smith said. Many agencies have had federal and state cuts so the need is greater than ever, and more people are needing the services they provide.
Anyone who would like to volunteer with the next campaign, committees will be forming for small business, residents’, professionals and clubs and organizations. Those interested can contact Bugner-Smith at 620-792-2403 or go to the website uwck.org for updates on United Way. The office is located at 1125 Williams in Great Bend.