Las Vegas Sun

July 1, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Need, competition for charitable dollars is great

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J. Patrick Coolican

Nevada Women’s Philanthropy has a creative way of doling out the significant money it raises every year: It holds a competition, with dozens of the valley’s best nonprofits making proposals.

The finalists among more than 40 applicants this year were the Salvation Army and Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada.

The Salvation Army asked for a badly needed new roof on its "Emergency Lodge" for the homeless on West Owens, as well as handicap accessible bathrooms and new beds and linens.

The Community Counseling Center proposed to pay off its mortgage and hire a psychiatrist and a billing specialist so it could take on more clients.

The votes were counted today and Salvation Army won $325,000. Community Counseling Center still comes away with $30,000.

I was invited to watch the competing presentations last week and was amazed at the community’s needs, and also the generosity and insights of the women assembled, who asked tough questions about budgets, construction timetables, bidding processes.

Salvation Army serves 680,000 hot meals per year, and its 106 beds in the emergency shelter are filled most nights. According to the census conducted by the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition for the Homeless, the homeless population is up 17 percent this year, to 13,338, so the need is great and growing.

If you can, visit the website of Community Counseling Center and donate to make up for what they didn’t win Friday. The center helps 3,000 people every year who are dealing with addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and the whole gamut of mental health issues.

Nevada Women’s Philanthropy has an interesting organizational structure: Every woman gives the same amount of money. They have 72 members and since the founding have now given $1.9 million. Past winners include the Rape Crisis Center, Legal Aid of Southern Nevada’s "Children’s Attorney Project," and the Public Education Foundation.

Note how this year’s finalists are both confronting a problem that gets little attention but has a significant impact on our criminal justice system, our schools, hospitals and economy: Our valley’s raging epidemic of undiagnosed and untreated mental illness.

It should be a public policy priority of every elected official in our valley, and too often, it’s not.

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