ERIE, Pa. — The Sight Center of Northwest Pennsylvania celebrates its 80th anniversary this year with a mission “to prevent blindness and promote independence for those with vision loss,” according to Shannon Wohlford, associate director of development of The Sight Center.
The agency has been a member of United Way of Erie County since its founding. Staff had anticipated funding reductions, but they did not foresee that all of their financial support from United Way would cease.
“That $120,000 was split over five different programs,” which ranged from rehabilitation to children’s preventative screenings, according to Wohlford.
She said that in order to compensate for the change effective July 1, the agency will increase fundraising and endowment funds, start a social enterprise and eliminate unsustainable services.
“The impact to our programs in the short-term could be that we have to kind of put a hold on services and say we can’t accept any new clients in certain programs.”
The United Way will reduce or eliminate funding for several organizations, including Meals on Wheels and some community centers.
“We have definitely needed to make a focused effort to make sure every dollar our donors give us is going back out into the community to get effective results,” said Bill Jackson, president of United Way of Erie County.
The organization will focus its community schools initiative and prioritize up to $700 for efforts like kindergarten readiness, mental health support and resources to address physical barriers to learning, according to United Way.
Jackson said, “(With) all of the good work that’s being done in our community, we could make a case for supporting all of it. The problem is we can’t do it all and do it all effectively.”
Both the United Way and The Sight Center say they will continue to serve the community as they best see fit.
Wohlford said, “We feel really good going forward. We have been working on a sustainability plan for the Sight Center. So, long-term we’re feeling good. It’s just the short-term is going to hurt.”