Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Supporting a worthy cause

October 24, 2012

A rabbi, two protestant ministers and a Catholic priest met 125 years ago to discuss social problems which were plaguing their hometown, Denver, Colo. The four came up with a unique idea – if they all pooled their efforts and energy in collecting funds for the needy – they might be able to increase and enhance their efforts and more people could be helped. Their idea was the early beginning of a movement that has brought tremendous change and efficiency to giving. They started what is now the United Way Campaign and the idea quickly spread across the nation.

They called their first group the Charity Organization of Denver. The following year – 1888 – they held their first drive and raised $21,700. The concept of charitable giving got a big boost in 1894 when contributions became tax exempt. In the past 125 years, the agency has gone by different names such as the Community Chest or the United Campaign, but the goal has always been the same – to pool resources and help those who are less fortunate or those who need help.

In my opinion, United Way is the best method of meeting social needs in our community. Maybe it is best summed up by the United Way of Wyandotte County’s mission statement: “To increase the community’s understanding of human needs and to mobilize resources to meet those needs.”

I have been involved as a volunteer for the Wyandotte County United Way since the early 1960s. I have seen the agency change to meet new needs in the county. They are involved in the traditional charitable work and in recent years have added such programs as Youth Build which helps high school dropouts to turn their lives around and learn a skill. I am truly amazed at the number of worthwhile programs that are sponsored by United Way.

Let me explain that I have served for many years on the board of directors of the United Way of Wyandotte County and spent two year as treasurer. This meant signing hundreds of checks. By the way, checks had to be signed both by volunteers and the staff. I have served on the finance committee and worked to help keep down expenses. In addition, I am serving on the audit committee. I can guarantee you that every dollar that is donated is used wisely.

I might add that the United Way of Wyandotte County did not join the merger with the Greater Kansas City United Way. We believe that we can better serve the needs of Wyandotte County since we live and work here. We are a much smaller agency and can quickly react to immediate needs.

For example, the United Way of Wyandotte County met nearly 164,000 needs in the community in 2011. Your contribution last year provided funds to meet 31,612 emergency needs. Agencies that are working to increase availability to health care and services met over 52,000 needs.

Quite frankly, I believe all of our lives are touched in one way or another by United Way Agencies. How many young people have learned valuable lessons in character building from the Boy Scouts or YMCA? The Red Cross provides a variety of services ranging from disaster relief to teaching aquatic lifesaving and first aid. They have programs aimed for senior citizens. The Salvation Army provides many, many worthwhile and necessary programs. I hesitate to name all of agencies because I know I’d leave someone out. In all, United Way funds 34 agencies and 42 agency programs. The agencies and their programs are reviewed regularly by a committee of community volunteers.

Locally, Vaughn-Trent Community Services receives some funding to assist residents in the USD 204 area with utility bills. V-T is just a small agency but it has a huge impact on the community. It is typical of the diverse agencies helped by United Way.

Certainly, the needs are great this year. In fact, UW was forced to lay off employees and operate with a full-time staff of 12.

The goal for this year is $2,073,023. This is a big goal in a time of financial insecurity and, yes, giving has been down the past couple of years. To keep up with the times, United Way conducts its campaign 12-months a year. We are always looking for contributions to aid the community.

Hopefully, you will be contacted by a volunteer and you will find a way to make a contribution – remember that United Way has very few administrative expenses.

You might ask why I give a lot of my time to the United Way and the answer is simple. I firmly believe that it is the best way to help the less fortunate in our community and to provide character building programs. Won’t you join me in contributing to the 2012 drive?

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