The United Way of Robeson County has one of those can’t-win decisions. No matter what it decides regarding funding for the troubled Southeastern Family Violence Center, there will be second opinions.
And the timing isn’t the best, coming on the heels of the United Way campaign launch.
Sometime soon the United Way’s board will decide whether or not to continue, eliminate or reduce funding to the Southeastern Family Violence Center, which has been in the news for the wrong reasons. The center’s board got hoodwinked and hired a director who had falsified her resume, then misspent money and allegedly stole personal information from employees before the ruse was up.
Now she has disappeared, and the police are looking for a scent.
The Southeastern Family Violence Center’s board erred in hiring the woman, and members were called before the United Way’s board on Wednesday to answer tough questions, such as how did it happen, and what will be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It didn’t help the center’s case that this was a Strike II.
We aren’t talking a little bit of money here. The Southeastern Family Violence Center is scheduled to receive $60,000 from United Way during the current fiscal year — about one in 11 dollars the United Way raises each year — and its quarterly payment of $15,000 is scheduled to be deposited on Tuesday. It’s money that the center, with a yearly budget of $450,000, can’t do without absent serious cuts to services.
It’s important that we separate the baby and the bathwater.
The Southeastern Family Violence Center provides comfort and shelter to as many as 2,000 people a year, mostly women and children, who are victims of domestic abuse. It’s a need that can’t go unmet in a county where domestic violence is passed down from generation to generation like durable furniture.
We don’t have any advice for the United Way board, trusting that it will make the best decision, which we know will be informed. The board must balance the needs of the clients of the Southeastern Family Violence Center while also remaining faithful to the tens of thousands of Robesonians who each year donate hard-earned money to the United Way on the promise that it will not only distribute the money to worthy nonprofits, but remain vigilant in making sure that the money is well-used.
That is what is happening in this instance. The United Way board, by demanding answers and threatening to cut or withhold funding, is demonstrating that it takes seriously its stewardship of donated dollars. When it comes time to raise money during the next campaign, the United Way should be rewarded for its diligence — and not punished for transgressions that occurred down the street.