United Way needs more help
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 2, 2012 1:50 AM
They set their goal at more than $1.2 million -- or, as they define it, 24,680 lives.
But local United Way officials say unless the community rallies behind their annual fundraising effort, they will likely fall short of the goal.
Steve Parr, the organization's director, said nearly 60 percent of the goal has, to date, been met -- some $720,000 -- but that "due to lingering effects of the economy," the campaign is facing a "significant" shortfall.
But community engagement manager Catherine LeChot said local residents still have time to chip away at the $70,000 projected to be missing when the total is revealed. To help, the campaign has been extended until the end of the year.
"Please make a donation and help us reach our goal so we can continue improving the lives of people in the community," she said. "24,680 lives is a significant number of people."
To help potential donors understand how the United Way affects Wayne County, its leaders are trying a new tack this year -- linking giving with exactly how the money impacts the community.
For example, the organization is finding ways to bring together programs that separately might look as if they had different goals, but really have the same end result in mind -- better lives for more people.
Literacy Connection is one program that receives money from United Way. It might be obvious that helping adults learn to read is a good thing, but United Way leaders point out that it benefits not only those particular people, but the community as a whole. The more people who can read, the more people who can find work and can get off the unemployment rolls, helping to reduce the burden on others.
United Way is looking at the big picture, Parr said, and hoping that people across Wayne County will see how their donations can have an effect, not on just one small part of the community, but how it can ripple through the entire spectrum of life here.
The organization owes it to its supporters to make every dollar work, he said, and the new concept of measuring success, not just by dollars raised, but by lives impacted, is what United Way is aiming for.
And that means holding the United Way's member organizations accountable, too.
Recipients of United Way funds have to show how their programs do more than simply take care of the immediate need. The goal is to have a long-term impact, Parr said.
To qualify to receive United Way funds, programs have to show how their efforts are working to solve the root cause, he said.
So, it is not enough simply to feed the hungry, a program must also incorporate ways for those who are struggling to get the resources or skills they need to get back on their feet -- like reading or access to training.
The result, Parr said, is that one more person gets a chance to start a new, independent life rather than becoming dependent on assistance and the hopelessness that accompanies it.
"We're trying to make the pieces of the puzzle align," Parr said. "That's how we can reach further into the community."
United Way board member Jane Rustin said donating to the United Way offers donors the chance to make sure their money is used to "teach people to fish."
"You can just throw money at a problem, or you can make a difference," she said.
Dr. Marlee Ray, the executive director of WAGES, is chairman of United Way's campaign this year. She said that she understands why some people or organizations have not been able to help with the campaign as they have in the past.
But the tough economic times that are pinching everyone's wallet are making life for people who already live on the edge even dicier.
"I see firsthand the depth and breadth of the need in our community," she said, "and at this time of year, when it's so tough for all of us, it's all the more reason to give. We have so many people who are struggling."
She said although reaching deeper into already thin pockets might hurt in the short term, the long-term benefits of the programs that United Way supports means even a small donation now will reap big benefits in the long run.
These are just some of the organizations among those that benefit from United Way coffers:
* American Red Cross
* Boy Scouts of Tuscarora Council
* Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County
* Communities In Schools
* Girl Scouts -- North Carolina Coastal Pines
* Salvation Army
* Society of St. Vincent de Paul
* The Partnership for Children
* Wayne County Charitable Partnership
* Wayne Uplift Resource Association
Those interested in learning more about the United Way or how to make a donation to the campaign can visit the organization's website at www.unitedwayne.org.
If a person pledges today, it can be paid during 2013 so United Way doesn't need their money now -- only their pledge.
The campaign will be extended until Dec. 31. Pledges can be made directly to the United Way office in the Wells Fargo Bank building at 301 E. Ash St., third floor; mailed to P.O. Box 73, Goldsboro, NC 27533, or by visiting the website.