11/27/05 — United Way extends campaign

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United Way extends campaign

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 27, 2005 2:11 AM

"We're in trouble."

That's the message United Way Campaign Chairman Jane Rustin is putting out to Wayne County residents.

This year's campaign has been extended until the middle of December. Ms. Rustin said it was supposed to end on Thanksgiving Day, but the campaign is $326,222 -- more than 22 percent -- short of its goal of $1,425,000.

The total now stands at $1,098,778.

"When we look at the numbers, we're way behind, even where we were last year," she said.

Based on last year's collections, the Thanksgiving Day total is $262,000 short.

"My concern is how far we're behind last year," said Ms. Rustin. "That's a huge amount of deficit. If we don't get that money, there's going to be serious cuts to the agencies -- not just level funding, but actual cuts to the programs and services. We can't let that happen."

She said there are some major companies that still haven't completed their campaigns along with a number of individuals and professionals who have not yet donated.

Ms. Rustin said United Way volunteers have heard over and over again that because of Hurricane Katrina, a lot of money flowed out of this community.

"That is certainly a wonderful and worthy cause, but we just hope that people will refocus and remember, especially now that the holidays are coming, it (the campaign) is really important," she said.

She said another reason for falling short is the concern over gas and the cost of fuel. "It's still pretty high, but at least that's coming down," she said.

"What we'd like to remind folks is that their pledge is for next year. They don't have to pay it right now, but can pay it anytime next year or through payroll deduction a little each payday. And things are supposed to get better."

To help push the campaign to its goal, United Way will have a telephone blitz Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Agency staff and volunteers, United Way staff and board members and other volunteers will do the phoning.

"We're going to try to contact everybody who donated last year who hasn't yet given," she said. "If we contact them and there's a problem, it's going to be even more serious for us."

If the middle of December comes and goes and United Way still hasn't met its goal, the deadline may be extended once more to the end of December.

"2006 is coming and we have to tell the agencies what they're getting," Ms. Rustin said. "So there has to be an end."

If the final deadline comes and goes, United Way agencies will not receive as many funds next year.

"It's not about the money; it's about the lives that are improved," said Ms. Rustin.

"United Way money stays in Wayne County. It doesn't go anywhere else. It comes back to help folks right here. And those folks need it. According to United Way of Wayne County's website, 88 cents of every dollar pledged goes to services and programs.

"The meals still have to be there for the seniors. It doesn't matter that things have happened elsewhere. For them and their lives, which are here, we need to support them. We've got people here that will not get what they need."

Ms. Rustin said she knows that Wayne County people "really care about each other and I think they just haven't had a chance to really understand what's going on. I think people just kind of figure we're going to make the goal. Well, we're not unless everybody steps up.

"It's going to take individuals deciding to do the right thing for their hometown to make it happen."

She said it's not that United Way needs the money, it's the people who get the services that need it. "I hate to think that as a community, we'd turn our backs on them."