By BRITTANY FHOLER
The United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area held its kick-off luncheon last Thursday, with local businesses, organizations and entities joining together to celebrate the start of the 2021 United Way Campaign at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
The theme for this year’s fundraising campaign is “Stay Strong and Carry on Together”, which emphasizes organizations and communities coming together in hard times to help one another.
This year’s campaign chair is Sherry Hoffpauir, who was unable to attend the kick-off luncheon. Her husband, and the event’s emcee, Joe Lombardi, read a statement on her behalf during the luncheon.
“‘Everybody has a ‘why’ as to the reason they become involved in an organization,’” he read. “‘Many years ago, I attended my first kickoff luncheon and heard, Mary Lee Barr from Communities in Schools speak. She told the story of two sisters, one went on Monday and Wednesday, the other on Tuesday and Thursday Communities in School visited the home to find out why. The reason they alternated days- they only had one pair of shoes between them. CIS bought each girl a pair of shoes so they could go to school together. That’s just one agency’s story. I know each agency has a story to tell, and you may know it, which is probably your why. Tell your coworkers and tell your neighbors. The more we tell the story of the good United Way does, it helps to build awareness of the organization and donations. Stronger together, we can do it.’”
The United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area partners with 21 agencies and organizations in the Central Texas Area, including the Central Texas Youth Services Bureau, with their main office located in Belton, at 204 N. East Street, Suite A.
Kami Diaz, Executive Director for the Center Texas Youth Services Bureau, shared a brief look of how the United Way of GFHA has helped her organization reach youths in need.
“The assistance we get from the United Way helps us with a lot of things,” Diaz said. “Our organization has been in the community for over 50 years, and we work particularly with ages 0 to 25, who are runaway, homeless, at-risk, foster, former foster, and we do housing assistance- independent, transitional, maternity group home.”
CTYSB has a Minor Shelter in Killeen for youth ages 11 to 17 and serves those who are in foster care, runaways or those who have been kicked out. They also have three Drop In Centers, which provide resources and support to any youth who stops by.
“The funding we get, specifically from United Way, assists us with our biggest Drop In Center we have in Harker Heights,” Diaz said. “It is able to assist with basic needs for ages 13 to 25.”
Diaz explained that they serve youth up to age 25 because the majority of the youth that they serve have complex trauma from experiencing exploitation, physical abuse, sexual abuse, homelessness, transientness and more, and so they have high mental health problems and also suffer from substance abuse.
Central Texas Youth Services also helps with housing assistance, case management, etc.
Diaz shared the story of an 18-year-old female who has come to Central Texas Youth Services to escape labor trafficking. The girl weighed less than 60 pounds when she first arrived.
“With some commitment from our staff, and being able to work with her on an ongoing basis, we were able to build a rapport with her,” Diaz said. “She allowed us to help her. She is now in a healthy weight range. She is in one of our housing programs that we were able to assist her get into. She has the identification she needs, and she is currently attending college. That’s what we’re able to do.”
The money that the Central Texas Youth Services receives from the United Way and other donations is able to be matched by up to $9 more in federal grant funding, Diaz said. To learn more about the United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area, visit https://www.unitedway-gfha.org.