BOTKINS — The residents of Shelby County are being called on to continue to help change the lives of the people who call the county home.
During Thursday’s kick off campaign luncheon, Shelby County United Way Executive Director Scott Barr announced the theme and goal for this year’s campaign. The theme, he said, is “60 Years of Changing Lives.” The campaign goal is to raise $1,320,000.
The pacesetters, said Barr, have already contributed $136,753 to the campaign. This is 10 percent of the campaign goal.
The United Way, said Barr, has been instrumental in helping establish many agencies and organizations in the county during its 60 year history. More than 40 organizations receive United Way funding. The organization has invested $1.1 million in the community. Last year, 11,200 residents benefited from United Way programming.
A new partnership the United Way has formed is with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for the construction of a transitional home to be located at the sheriff’s office.
“Your $30,000 donation toward the transitional housing is appreciated,” said Sheriff John Lenhart.
Lenhart said when he was a student at Ohio State University he wrote a paper about the number of women who were incarcerated.
“One in 57 was a woman incarcerated,” said Lenhart. “Today, it’s one in four is a woman.”
Lenhart said the opiate and heroin epidemic is the cause of many of the incarcerations.
“Four years ago the problem really kicked up,” said Lenhart. “Three to four years ago, I asked for help from the federal and state government.”
He had asked the federal government for FEMA trailers to house inmates who were transitioning back into life after jail.
“We can dry them out, but then they go back the same environment they left,” said Lenhart.
So the sheriff’s office started its own program: dry the inmate out, get them jobs and help then transition back into a new environment.
“We have inmates who ride their bicycles to work,” said Lenhart. “If they can go from the jail into a transitional home, then we’re looking at six months to get them back into society and be a taxpayer too.
“It’s not going to be easy to get out of this mess,” said Lenhart.
As he approached the podium to speak, Lenhart held up a cookie from lunch. At the end of this talk, he said last week a person overdosed on a cookie that was laced with drugs.
“There’s always going to be ways for people to abuse themselves and their bodies,” said Lenhart. “I think we need to arrest everybody using heroin or some type of opioid. That way we can get them into treatment.”
So far in 2017, there have been 10 overdose deaths in Shelby County.
“The only reason it’s not higher is because Narcan is being given and that’s bringing them back to life.”
Lenhart said the sheriff’s office has a contract with Wilson Health to have a deputy on duty at the hospital during the evening and overnight hours. On the first night a deputy was on duty, there were nine people dropped off who had overdosed.
“There are 144 kids in foster care with an aunt, uncle or other person,” said Lenhart because a parent is incarcerated. There are currently 47 women housed at the jail and most are between the ages of 18 and 40.
“We have four pregnant inmates on any given day,” said Lenhart.
Lenhart said the state has earmarked $1.5 million to fight drugs in Ohio. That amount, once it’s divided up among all the law enforcement agencies, is “chump change,” he said. The first year West Virginia decided to start fighting the drug problem, they earmarked $15 million for the program.
Barr said the United Way assisted with the purchase of a K-9 for the Sidney Police Department. Kilo has been deployed 117 times since the spring of 2016; seized $3,355 from drug activity; helped with three vehicles that were forfeited by their owners; and seized a street value of almost $30,000 in meth, marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroin and pills.
Two agencies which the United Way helped get started in Shelby County were Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Wilma Valentine Child Care center. BBBS was started in 1977, while Wilma Valentine opened in 1982.
Jenny Bruns, BBBS director, said she was intrigued by the history between the two organizations. In 1977, Big Brothers was started and funded by United Fund. Over the years, the organization has changed and included more people to be role models for the children in the program.
“One thing that has not changed is the valuable partnership we have with the United Way,” said Bruns. In 2016, BBBS served 359 children under the age of 18.
Nancy Stiefel, Wilma Valentine director and United Way board member, thanked the community for being generous in its donations during the past 60 years.
“I’ve been able to interact with other agencies,” said Stiefel, “and what they do in the community is powerful.”
She said the center was established with a $2,000 grant from the United Way and donations from other groups. When it opened in 1982, they had 16 children enrolled in the program. In 2016, they served 79 preschool age children.
“We received $85,500 from the United Way this year,” she said. “We couldn’t this without the United Way.”
Kurt Barhorst, campaign chairman, said he has been on both the giving and receiving side of the United Way. As an individual, he has donated and volunteered with the United Way. His company, Air Handling Control, also supports the United Way campaign. His wife, Connie, is chairman of the POWER group.
“But I’ve seen a bigger impact on the receiving end,” said Barhorst. “I was on the YMCA board of directors. The Y is more than a swimming pool and a gym.”
Funds from the United Way help with the childcare program at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA, he said.
He was also on the Holy Angels Soup Kitchen committee. The group is in partnership with the Alpha Center to provide meals Monday through Friday at the Alpha Center. The Soup Kitchen provides the meals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“We will serve 15,000 meals this year,” said Barhorst.
He is also a member of the Shelby County Libraries board of trustees. The partnership between the library and the United Way to provide books for children under the age of five through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is important to the youth of the county. More than 2,300 children are receiving a book monthly through the program. More than 52,000 books have been mailed since the program was launched in March 2015.
Barhorst recognized the division leaders, county ambassadors and account volunteers.
Lenora Randolph, president of the United Way board of trustees, recognized the current board members, past campaign chairmen, past board presidents, partner agency directors board members and staff, POWER members, United Way staff and events/activities committee members.
Barr recognized Charlotte Rehmert, who was the director of the United Way for 12 years.
Barr also discussed some of the newer programs launched by the United Way. The programs include Impact Program; Afterschool Collaboration; Character Playbook; and the 211 24 hour call center. A new program to be launched in October is the Student United Way. One junior and one senior from each of the county’s 10 high schools will be participating in the program.
The campaign will conclude on Thursday, Nov. 9, with a luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the American Legion in Sidney.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.