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By Peter Mason, Star Tribune Staff Writer

ALICE Project fights hardships.

United Way, a nationally recognized organization with a location in downtown Danville, did the research to discover that approximately 42 percent of homes in the Danville Pittsylvania County area struggle to afford basic needs.  The ALICE Project was put in place in an effort to help provide financial support for these families.

According to a United Way press release, the acronym ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  ALICE places a spotlight on hardworking residents with low-incomes, have little to no money saved up, and are one crisis away from falling into poverty.

"By having this data we can look at the situation in Danville Pittsylvania County to determine which nonprofit organizations we want to fund that actually have quality programs and proven track records in serving this segment of the community," Danville United Way president and CEO Philip Haley said.  "We have identified a budget.  A bare-boned minimum survival budget for people living in Danville Pittsylvania County."

According to the ALICE Report for Danville, the necessary total annual income for a single adult is estimated to be $16,980, while a family of four requires a minimum of $48,840.  In Pittsylvania County, it's estimated that a single adult requires a minimum of $16,980 while a family of four is estimated to require at least $50,412.

The estimated budget for both the city and the county is broken down into the need for housing, child care, food, transportation, miscellaneous needs, taxes and health care.

"There's no fluff in that budget," Haley said.  "These families are basically having to make determinations on where they choose to skimp.  Often a family will choose to skimp on health care so they don't get the preventative health care they need."

Under the leadership of the United Way located in Rappahannock County, local United Ways from all over Virginia have combined their efforts to produce the Virginia ALICE Report Project, along with backing from statewide sponsors Union Bank and GEICO.

The number of ALICE households ranges from 21% in Pittsylvania County up to 25% in Danville.  Virginia is the 15th state to complete an ALICE study. The collaborative model, practiced in each state, ensures each United Way ALICE report presents data that is unbiased and replicable. It also is updated periodically and sensitive to local context.

"Community Impact is our main mission," United Way Community Impact and Operations Director Traci Petty said.  "We do it by funding agencies who provide services that cover a lot of the issues.  We also provide the information that leaders need to be able to make informed decisions about what this community needs."

Haley and Petty explained that in order for a nonprofit to receive funding for the United Way, there's an application process they must go through.  This allows the United Way to see if they want to invest in what that organization is doing to help people.

"The big piece that the United Way plays is raising funds," Haley said.  "The key role for the United Way is helping raise money to support the nonprofits in the community.  Sometimes it's not the amount of money.  Often it boils down to an organization that has the ability to harness the power of volunteers.  The harnessing of volunteer work is what makes these programs extremely successful."

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