Local News

United Way gets $1 million donation

SEBRING - Since 2002 when a family set up a trust, United Way of Central Florida knew it would be eventually getting $1 million for programs in Highlands County. But it was only this month that the gift, the largest amount given anytime recently, was actually received. “I was surprised,” said Kristin Handley, director of the Highlands County division of United Way of Central Florida. “This is something that is highly unique (for this area).” Handley, who was appointed to that position recently, said she only recently became aware of the gift.
Although Handley said she’s pleased with the gift that came about through planned giving, she added that doesn’t mean the United Way doesn’t still need its long-time and new supporters who give much smaller amounts. The money from the large donation will be invested, and only after interest has started building, will a portion of the interest be spent on an annual basis, she said. That’s not going to happen in the near future, Handley said. The family that gave $1 million to United Way wished to remain anonymous, she said. The only stipulation was that the money be spent in Highlands County, Handley added. Handley said she’s hoping that other people will learn about the gift and consider planned giving as a way to support United Way. United Way supports 16 agencies and 22 programs provided by those agencies. Its last campaign raised about $450,000. One of those programs is Ridge Area Arc in Avon Park, which helps people with disabilities. Rhonda Beckman, the director, said the United Way funding is crucial. She said it supports residential, adult day care and community employment training programs. The day care program benefits 30 individuals with the goal of increasing their productivity and potential to earn higher wages, Beckman said. The community employment program provides 20 individuals with job development skills, help in applying for jobs and support with on-the-job training if needed, she said. The money for the residential program helps with health care needs, she said. Another program supported by United Way is Heartland Horses and Handcapped’s horse therapy program. Lynda Paul, the director, said the $5,000 the organization receives annually helps pay for the care for the horses and other expenses. Handicapped people gain self-confidence by having the opportunity to ride the horses, she said. “Everyone at our facility has a type of disability,” she said. “They’re not judged. We have a place where they fit in.”


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