Thursday was a banner day for United Way of Blair County.
United Way officials handed out 30 impact grants, their largest number ever, said Robin Beck, executive director.
This year, $297,696 is being distributed among the impact grant recipients.
"We are happy to be able to increase United Way's investment in our community with a 12 percent increase in grant funding over the previous year," Beck said. "This is one of my favorite days of the year. This is the culmination of what we do throughout the year. We were able to fund every agency this year that requested funds."
United Way funding is making a difference to the Healing Patch, a bereavement program for children.
"We are seeing a huge increase of children losing parents to drug abuse. The number of grandparents bringing in children has more than doubled," said Allison Stockley, Home Nursing Agency Healing Patch manager.
"To give children a chance to piece their lives back together, to heal and move forward in their lives is huge," Stockley said. "You are making a big difference in the lives of these children."
United Way funding also will help the Monastery Community Gardens food donation project, which supplies fresh homegrown vegetables for families in need.
"Last year, our volunteers donated 3,493 pounds of vegetables. This year, with the help of United Way, we are putting in an extra 1,000 square feet of garden and are aiming at hitting between 5,000 and 7,000 pounds of produce," said Pat Trimble, secretary. "This will really give us a shot in the arm."
The Nursing-Family Partnership will put its grant money to good use.
"People are not aware of the great range of services that are available. Nursing-Family Partnership has specially trained nurses that do home visits for first-time mothers. Our nurses mentor and encourage girls to stay in school and support them to raise their babies and become successful members of the community,"
said Lisa Ritchey, director. "Without United Way, we would not be as far as we are."
The Mountain Lion BackPack program, which addresses the hunger needs of 400 elementary children in the Altoona Area School District, also is grateful for the assistance.
"Your grant has helped us to nearly double our program. I appreciate that United Way has a bird's eye view of what is needed in the community and puts the pieces together. It is nice to know we all fit in and you recognize that," said Heather Little, program co-coordinator.
The impact grants range from $1,000 to $24,000, and typically an agency gets about 65 percent of what it requests, Beck said.
In addition to the impact grants, $73,092.52 in direct designations, which were obtained through the 2013-14 United Way of Blair County Campaign, will be distributed to agencies including The Arc of Blair County, Altoona Public Library, American Cancer
Society, American Heart Association, Central Pennsylvania Humane Society, Children's Hospital UPMC, Easter Seals Central Pennsylvania, Hollidays-burg Area Public Library, Hollidaysburg Area YMCA, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Salvation Army and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
"This totals $370,788 we are giving back to programs that are supporting the community. Right now, including our volunteer hours and other resources, we are looking at a $1.4 million impact on our community during 2013-14," Beck said.
The complete list of those receiving impact grants includes:
n After school program - Gloria Gates Memorial Foundation.
n Best care child care - Child Advocates of Blair County.
n Community based mentoring - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Blair County Inc.
n Cub Scouts 1-2-3 - Laurel Highlands Council, Boy Scouts of America.
n Disaster response - American Red Cross Southern Alleghenies Chapter.
n Domestic abuse shelter - Family Services Inc.
n Education initiative - Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.
n Emergency financial assistance program - Catholic Charities Inc. of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
n Family shelter- Family Services Inc.
n Healing Patch program for grieving children and their families - Home Nursing Agency and Visiting Nurses Association.
n Housing counseling program - Blair County Community Action Agency.
n Leadership Blair County Youth -
Blair County Chamber Foundation Inc.
n Learning @ The Library - Claysburg Area Public Library.
n Legal services for victims of domestic violence - MidPenn Legal Service.
n Meals on Wheels - Blair Senior Services Inc.
n Monastery Community Gardens food donation project - Franciscan Friars, TOR.
n Mountain Lion BackPack Program - Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation.
n Nurse-family partnership - Home Nursing Agency Community Services.
n Nurturing program - Child Advocates of Blair County.
n Pennsylvania 2-1-1 Call Center - Contact Altoona.
n Partnering for health services risk reduction program - UPMC Altoona Foundation.
n Prevention of blindness program - Blair/Clearfield Association for the Blind.
n Prime time health - Blair Senior Services Inc.
n Project SOAR - Altoona Area School District Foundation.
n Safe sleep education - Blair County Respiratory Disease Society.
n Site based/school based plan - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Blair County Inc.
n Summer camps - Joshua House Inc.
n Teen center and shelter - Family Services Inc.
n Through health clinic - Through Inc.
n YMCA preschool - Garver Memorial YMCA.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.