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United Way of Central Missouri leadership looked at each other in stunned silence when they realized how much money they had available for community support grants this year.

The nonprofit announced Friday it has made $197,334 available for the one-time grants — a record for the local chapter.

"It's pretty exciting. We were so diligent and hyper-focused on putting as much back into the community as we could," said Ann Bax, president of the local United Way.

The grants are investments the organization makes to address immediate, critical unmet needs or to support emerging needs in the seven counties it serves — Moniteau, Cole, Osage, Miller, Morgan, Camden and southern Callaway.

Grants are available to not only its partner agencies, but other organizations. They are available to any health and human service 501(c)(3) agency that meets grant criteria, serves all or part of the agency's service area and has been in operation for two or more years. The one-time grants provide the agencies opportunities to start new programs, enhance an area of service or purchase needed equipment or supplies. Grant funding must be used to address a need in the area of behavioral health, education, food insecurity, financial stability, health, shelter or transportation.

"Right now, we understand that behavioral health is a priority," Bax said.

In 2018, the organization presented 19 grants (totaling $115,000) to applicants to fight for the health, education, financial stability and basic needs of the people of Central Missouri. Among recipients were Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association for purchase of a case-management database; the Council for Drug Free Youth for third- and seventh-grade programs in Moniteau County; Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation for six audiometers to be used in hearing screenings in elementary schools; River City Habitat for Humanity for a set of pump-jacks (a scaffolding system); Wonderland Camp, which received a matching grant for a handicapped-accessible van; and many others.

Behavioral health is a critical issue, Bax said, so grants addressing that issue will receive priority consideration. However, the United Way will look at all the applications and does not want to discourage any agencies from applying.

To learn more about the grant-application process, visit unitedwaycemo.org/grants. For more information, call 573-636-4100.

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