Archive for Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Local charities stay strong

October 17, 2001

With hundreds of millions of dollars already donated to national relief agencies for efforts with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, that leaves many smaller, local charities with one burning question: Is there enough money to go around?

It appears, at least for now the answer is yes.

While most people might expect a decline in the amount of money being raised by local charitable organizations, Paulette Platis, the director of resource development for the United Way of Wyandotte County, said that hasn't been the case.

"When tragedy like this happens and hits home, the American people step up and their spirit of generosity just increases," Platis said.

The United Way, which garners about 75 percent of its donations nationwide from workplace fund-raising campaigns, said donations have actually risen in the weeks since the terrorist attacks. There are more than 1,400 branches of the United Way across the country.

"That just seems to be the trend," Platis said. "People are really just stepping up."

That "trend" continues at the Leavenworth County office of the United Way, executive director Marianne Grodberg said.

"I can't say (donations) have dropped," Grodberg said. "They are still coming in. I think people are digging a little deeper both nationally and locally."

Grodberg said her United Way office collected numerous donations shortly after the terrorist attacks.

"We had a surge of donations to send to New York," Grodberg said. "A bank also matched our donations. We ended up sending a check for $20,000 to help aid in the tragedy."

Grodberg said she is unsure whether economic pitfalls will have a significant impact on the United Way, which is the largest charitable organization in Leavenworth County.

"I am hearing both sides right now, so I don't know for sure," Grodberg said. "I would really hate it if we have had less, but I am going to keep an open mind about it."

Carol Geary, the director of Vaughn-Trent Community Services, said she couldn't believe how quickly donations mounted for relief organizations in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

Geary, who called the amount of money raised since the attacks "mind-boggling," said she is still concerned about the potential effects the outpouring of donations could have on smaller charities, such as Vaughn-Trent.

"People may not be able to give as generously as they have during the past," Geary said. "People only have so much disposable income."

Despite being able to at least maintain, if not increase, the level of donations so far, Platis worries that more and more people will be going to the United Way for help during the down-trodden economic times to come. In the Kansas City metropolitan area, she has heard that more than 25,000 jobs could be cut within the next few months, which will leave thousands of people in need of job retraining, health benefits and even low-cost meals for their children at school.

"The needs of our agency are just going to keep increasing," Platis said.

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