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WHEATFIELD – The United Way of Greater Niagara announced Wednesday it is launching a thorough review of each of its partner agencies’ claims to funding.

“It could mean increases in funding for some. It could mean decreases in funding for some. It could mean some new partners. It’s kind of exciting,” President Carol G. Houwaart-Diez said.

An 18-member task force composed mostly of people with no connection to the United Way has been appointed and will report to the United Way board this summer, she said.

The review involves the distribution of about $800,000 of “undesignated funds” the United Way collects in its annual fund drive.

Houwaart-Diez said if a donor specifies a particular not-for-profit agency or program on his form, United Way must obey those instructions and send the money there, even if it’s not an agency United Way normally funds. But most donors don’t do that, and the United Way divides up those undesignated contributions among 75 programs operated by 20 agencies in Niagara County. The shares “are really based on past history,” Houwaart-Diez said.

But now, largely at the behest of the national United Way organization, the task force has been set up to analyze the county’s needs for funding in the agency’s three main target areas – education, health and income. It will then determine how well the 75 programs meet those needs.

Sources of information on community needs will involve a variety of reports, including government and private studies, such as the John R. Oishei Foundation’s Mobile Safety Net Team; a report by New York State Touchstones “Kids Count” data books from the State Council on Children and Families; and the Niagara County Health Department’s community health assessment.

The results will be publicized before the annual United Way fund drive kicks off in earnest this fall, and the decisions will apply to the money collected this year. “We have to have this report before we go out to campaign,” Houwaart-Diez said.

It has been three years since the United Way of Greater Niagara was formed through the merger of the United Way of Niagara and the Eastern Niagara United Way. “At that time, we told our partners there wouldn’t be any major changes for two years,” Houwaart-Diez said.

The task force members are Joe Caridi and Joe White of United Steel Workers Local 277 at Goodyear Tire & Rubber; Julie Coy, State Farm Insurance; Dr. Brendan Dowd; Delphi retiree Robert J. Hagen; Brian Hellner, a local financial investor; Robert Kazeangin of The Buffalo News; Rich Laskowski and Joe Proietti, retirees from the state Division of Youth; Beverly Maziarz, State Supreme Court secretary; and Carrie H. Mitchell, a retiree from the Niagara Falls School District.

Also, Dick McIntyre, a retired Niagara County employee; Linda Mocny of D’Youville College; Therese Quarantillo, a Niagara Falls accountant; Joanne M. Shippey of Merrill Lynch/Bank of America; Michael Williamson of Williamson Funeral Home, Niagara Falls; Jerald Wolfgang of the Western New York Regional Center for Economic Development; and Tyler Zikuski of Wegmans.

Dowd, Hagen, Kazeangin, Maziarz, Mitchell, Shippey and Wolfgang are current United Way board members.

The currently funded agencies are the Niagara County chapter of the American Red Cross; Big Brothers/Big Sisters; the Iroquois Trail and Greater Niagara Frontier councils of the Boy Scouts; the Buffalo-Niagara and Lockport Family YMCAs; the Dale Association; Everywoman Opportunity Center; Family and Children’s Service of Niagara; and Girl Scouts of Western New York.

Also, the Health Association of Niagara County; the Mary C. Dyster Center for Young Parents; the Mental Health Association of Niagara County; the Niagara Cerebral Palsy Association; Niagara County Legal Aid; the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club; Northpointe Council; Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara; the Salvation Army in Lockport; and the YWCA of Niagara.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com