United Way’s assistance allows Gateway to offer collaborative aid

Gateway Family Services, though located in Snyder, continues to make a great impact to those in Nolan County through collaborative efforts. At their shelter, residents of the county--who are victims of family violence or sexual assault--are housed in the shelter with transportation provided as necessary, working alongside local law enforcement and hospitals to assist people.For the 2012 fiscal year, Gateway assisted 766 total clients; 219 of those were from Nolan County.Other services provided include clothing, food, medical, law enforcement and court accompaniment, assistance completing applications for housing, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), crime victims’ compensation, legal aid and educational needs, among others. Over 10,000 meals or food for meals were provided to clients in the 2012 fiscal year.Furthermore, victim advocacy and support groups are offered through Gateway. Though a professional counselor is not on staff, peer counseling is available as well as referrals to licensed professional counselors.In addition, the group has lists on hand of childcare facilities in order to assist parents in making child care arrangements, as Gateway does not provide childcare. They work with several agencies, including CPS (Child Protective Services), APS (Adult Protective Services), ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) and Headstart, and they also meet monthly as members with the Nolan County CRCG (Community Resource Coordination Group).The staff of Gateway takes part in the annual fundraising efforts held by the Nolan County United Way (NCUW). As a result, the funds received by the NCUW help Gateway’s efforts in responding to crisis calls made in the county 24/7 and assist with the costs of housing a permanent office in Sweetwater.The outreach office in Sweetwater is located at 317 Oak, inside of the West Texas Children’s Advocacy Center building, and is staffed on a part-time basis by local resident Tiffany Rule. At least two times a week, Gateway’s other advocates come to Nolan County to meet with clients and/or law enforcement, as well as provide programs for communities or schools.In the past, churches in Nolan County have held coat, clothing and suitcase drives, as well as scavenger hunts--for items like curling irons, blow dryers, and toiletries, in which the teenagers involved then donate the items to Gateway.And with the Christmas season approaching, current clients will fill out a wish list for clothing, coats, shoes and toys for their children. Coded wish lists are then made to where the kids can be adopted by citizens in the area to help provide Christmas for the families. During the 2011 Christmas campaign, 30 families with 86 children were assisted. All of the children were adopted in order to provide at least three gifts per child. Additionally, the needs of the adults are known so that Gateway can try to provide these needs and food as necessary. Sweetwater’s involvement with Gateway is a continual effort, as three local residents currently serve on Gateway’s board of directors. In addition, several individuals in Sweetwater are looking at forming a group to help feed homeless, disabled and low income people within the county.“We are just in the beginning stages of meeting,” said Lyndia Allen, the executive director of Gateway, “but we are looking forward to being part of helping more Nolan County residents.”Gateway Family Services strives to provide programs about their organization, the services the office, and violence prevention to various groups like civic clubs, community organizations, church/work/professional groups, and students in schools. Out of 485 programs to students on violence prevention education during the 2011-2012 school year, 144 of those programs were held in schools located in Nolan County. In addition, Gateway took part in 47 community education programs and 12 resource/health fairs over the past year.Anyone interested in scheduling a program for their group are invited to call Gateway at 325-573-1822 or 573-4351.Gateway Family Services is just one of nine local agencies who receive assistance from the Nolan County United Way on a yearly basis. Among them include the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, SNAP (Senior Nutrition Activities Program), Cancer Services Network, Sweetwater BackPack Buddies, the West Texas Children’s Advocacy Center (WTCAC), the Big Country Medical Reserve Corps, and the Women’s Resource Center.This year’s local campaign focus is “Give Where You Live”, with the 2012 monetary goal set at $85,000. The NCUW runs solely on pledges and is led by Wendy Smartt, the group’s Executive Director, as well as a board of volunteers from the community. The local organization strives to impact the community with a caring power by keeping the money in the county for the agencies.To donate to the NCUW, a one-time donation can be given through a payroll deduction or a quarterly basis. By giving, they are able to impact thousands in the community by way of the nine agencies.The local agencies will receive funding on three different occasions over the course of a year. They must also take part in an annual interview process and meet several guidelines to receive the assistance from the Nolan County United Way.This article is the first in a series called “Nolan County United Way: Agency Spotlight”. Through a partnership with the NCUW, the Sweetwater Reporter hopes to inform readers about all nine agencies. To learn more about the Nolan County United Way or for opportunities to volunteer, contact Smartt at nolancountyuw@yahoo.com or by voice mail at 325-235-9522.