01/10/10 — United Way asks for help to save 2009 campaign

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United Way asks for help to save 2009 campaign

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on January 10, 2010 1:50 AM

United Way of Wayne County is extending its annual fund-raising campaign through this month in hopes of reaching its $1.4 million goal.

The situation is dire, United Way officials say. Unless more donations come in quickly, the organization's campaign will fall short and the many less fortunate residents of the county who depend on it for help will find their heat turned off, or their after-school programs eliminated. Some might even lose their jobs.

The campaign is currently at 88 percent of its goal. But that is still more than $160,000 short.

The needs are still there, 2009 campaign chairman Brian Taylor said, but the money is not.

Taylor said the economic downturn is part of the problem, but he also noted that the same financial problems that plague the local, state and national economies, are also forcing more people to turn to the agencies United Way supports, creating a greater need.

"I'd hate to see, because of a decline in funding, it affect any of the agencies we support," Taylor said. "It would create a decline in services to people at a time when more people are in a crisis."

United Way supports a variety of causes in Wayne, including Meals on Wheels, the Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, teen court, parenting programs, adult literacy programs, support for victims of domestic violence, health programs and emergency help for people who are in immediate need of help with heating bills or even food.

Every penny collected stays in the county.

"Every dollar we do not have will prevent someone in our community from getting a helping hand when they need it most," said Steve Parr, United Way executive director.

"This drop in support will have devastating consequences on some of Wayne County's most vulnerable citizens," Parr said. "We continue to see increasing needs across all of the services provided by our community partner agencies, and in emergency assistance in particular -- food, rent, utilities and clothing."

Most of the donations that support United Way come from employees whose companies permit United Way representatives to come into the workplace and make their pitch for helping the community. But some companies chose not to open their doors this year and that is one of the main reasons the campaign has fallen short, United Way officials said, adding they hope the companies will reconsider.

By helping United Way, companies are actually helping themselves, United Way leaders say. An employee whose teenage daughter has become pregnant or whose son has run afoul of the law, or whose elderly parent needs to be checked on during the day is a better worker if those issues are being handled by organizations that are supported by the United Way, they say.

Hattie Frederick is one of the "loaned executives" large companies annually provide to United Way to make those campaign sales pitches. She has been a volunteer with United Way for nearly 10 years and says that after seeing the good it does, she has become passionate about the annual drive.

"I have lived in Wayne County all my life," she said, "and when you see the face on someone like an elderly person who is a recipient of Meals on Wheels, you see the importance of what the United Way does. I'd encourage everybody to give a little bit more and help us meet that goal this year, even if you've already given your fair share.

"As an individual, I can't do but so much to help others," she said, "but through the United Way I feel I can do a lot.

"If I didn't believe in the United Way I wouldn't be giving my time and support," she added. "But I want my county to be a better place, and United Way makes it a better place, especially for the kids."

Taylor and Parr said they hope the extension of the campaign will give some company officials pause to reconsider allowing their employees to hear how United Way works. They might well have a neighbor who is in need, or they might find themselves in need. Many employees could be willing to contribute their "fair share" if they only had a chance to hear the message, they said.

The term "fair share" refers to the one percent of an employee's salary that is considered the benchmark for giving. The money is usually deducted from a worker's paycheck each pay period to make the bite less noticeable. But that one percent goes a long way, they noted.

Parr pointed to the Red Cross "Heroes Campaign" to convince people to give blood. That same concept is true this year of United Way, he said.

"We need heroes," he said. "If there ever was a time when someone needs to step up and be a hero for Wayne County, this is it."

People who wish to contribute directly to United Way may mail them to: United Way of Wayne County, P.O. Box 73, Goldsboro, N.C. 27533-0073. Donations can also be made to the organization's secure Web site www.unitedwayne.org. Click on "invest."