Westfield City Council member Jake Gilbert asked fellow councilors to approve $25,000 in funds for the Wellbeing Coalition of Westfield. But the council denied the request by a 4-3 vote. Gilbert requested the money go toward hiring a part-time employee to assist in navigating next steps in becoming a nonprofit and obtaining 501(c)3 status, help with the organization’s volunteer portal, handle administrative duties and coordinate outreach needs in the city.
“Some things our survey showed pre-COVID is, people are lonely, people are siloed, people don’t volunteer, and people aren’t as connected as we think they are,” Gilbert said. “People are embarrassed to ask their neighbor for a cup of sugar. As we come out of COVID, we have had definite increases in suicides, in domestic disturbances and mental health episodes and hospitalizations and alcohol-induced events. The Wellbeing Coalition is really just a group, an organization of people in our city trying to be proactive. The best solutions are in prevention, and we are working hard to accomplish a lot of great things. We are here to ask for help.
“We think to take the next step we need a temporary employee.”
Gilbert said the $25,000 could come from the council’s promotions budget, which was already budgeted for $35,000 for the entire year. He said that part of the council’s budget had been untouched so far. Council member Cindy Spoljaric asked if less money would be appropriate, but Gilbert said the organization required a quality employee and he didn’t believe paying less than $15 an hour would attract that sort of candidate.
Council President Mike Johns said he had a problem with the money coming for the council’s budget and said it should instead come from the mayor’s budget.
“I anticipate more asks coming in for (promotions items) in the next six months, and by the end of the year, there’s not a whole lot left,” Johns said. “My concern is spending 70 to 75 percent of (the promotions budget).”
Council member Troy Patton volunteered to help Gilbert raise the $25,000 for the coalition. Patton said his company, Archer Investment Corp., would match the first $10,000 in donations, which led to four other people who attended the council meeting offering to donate.
Gilbert requested the funding still come from the council, which was voted down 4-3, with council members Patton, Johns, Scott Frei and Spoljaric voting to deny the request. Members Joe Edwards, Gilbert and Scott Willis voted to approve.
For more, visit wellbeingcoalitionwestfield.com.