The Ottumwa Courier

November 8, 2013

Wapello County receiving aid for food and shelter programs

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Wapello County’s emergency food and shelter programs have the chance to receive quite a boost to their funding thanks to the county being selected as one in need.

A national board chaired by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency chose Wapello County as the recipient of $12,937 through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. The board also consists of representatives from the American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; the Salvation Army; United Jewish Communities and United Way of America.

The national board is in charge of distributing funds appropriated by Congress to areas around the country with economic emergencies that are not disaster related. By using an equation that looks at poverty levels and other statistics, the board decides where to send funding.

“They compare which counties are most in need and decide from there,” said Marie Zoromski, community impact associate for Wapello County United Way.

The funds are then used by the chosen counties to go toward expanding their food and shelter programs. To determine how the funds should be spread through the county’s programs, a local board meets to discuss which groups in the county are in the most need. The board is made up of United Way of Wapello County, Crisis Center, SEIDA, Ottumwa Community Housing and the Catholic Community.

In Wapello County, the funds in the past have primarily been used for food programs, Zoromski says. Local food banks used the funds to purchase more goods that they can offer clients. Since the food banks can purchase food at a discounted rate, they were able to offer a sizable discount to clients.

The grant from the national board does have some terms of agreement that have to be met by local agencies looking for aid. Agencies must be private, voluntary nonprofits or units of government, have an accounting system, practice nondiscrimination, demonstrate the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs and have a voluntary board if they are a private, voluntary organization.

According to Zoromski, Wapello County being chosen for the program is both a blessing and a sign that things need to improve in the community.

“This isn’t something we’ve applied for,” she said. “It’s a good thing that we are receiving it, but as a community we want to work toward not needing it.”

Agencies that meet the requirements are encouraged to fill out an application for enrollment by calling Zoromski at 641-682-1264 or going online to wapellocouw.org. Applications must be completed by Nov. 18.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh