United Way making headway in fund drive

MIDDLEBURY — United Way of Addison County has reached 60 percent of its $775,000 goal in its 2010-2011 fund drive, nicely ahead of last year’s pace as the campaign enters the critical holiday giving season, officials said on Thursday.
It was in September that local United Way launched its annual fund drive to aid the county’s many nonprofit human service agencies. Organizers set the same goal as last year — a threshold of $775,000 that the United Way fell $40,000 short of realizing for 2009, in large part due to the sluggish economy.
“We were really disappointed last year,” said Kate McGowan, who is co-director of United Way of Addison County with Helen Freismuth.
“But in relation to the extent of the economic downturn, we did pretty well compared to other charitable organizations,” she added.
United Way officials set forth this year with the same financial goal and new vigor, led by campaign co-chairs Erin and Pam Quinn.
“The key to this campaign has been increasing participation,” Freismuth said. “No gift is too large or small.”
Thanks to a lot of hard work by United Way staff and volunteers, generous donors and a recovering economy, the campaign to date has yielded roughly $450,000 in contributions from approximately 1,000 sources.
Lat year at this time, the campaign was at 43 percent ($334,000) of its goal. Two years ago at this time, UWAC had raised 48 percent ($373,000) of what was a higher goal of $810,000.
The United Way is looking to close the book on its campaign by the end of next March.
Having reached the 60-percent mark at this point, McGowan and Freismuth are guardedly optimistic the organization will close out 2010-2011 a successful campaign.
“We are crossing our fingers,” McGowan said.
In the meantime, the United Way is already forming a committee of 35 to 50 people that will help process applications from local nonprofits seeking a cut of the campaign proceeds. The committee will read the nonprofits’ grant requests in January; conduct site visits in February; and negotiate with the applicants in November.
Freismuth said nonprofits have been showing restraint in their requests.
“It is clear there are limited resources and increased needs,” she said.
Some of those increased needs are being driven by state cutbacks in human services due to an ongoing budget crunch. That crunch will only get worse before it gets better, as state lawmakers in January will have to start shoring up an estimated $112 million general fund budget shortfall.
“There is no way United Way can backfill a state deficit that big,” McGowan said.
Anyone able to donate to the United Way of Addison County campaign, or who is willing to serve on the organization’s review committee, should call 388-7189, or log on to www.unitedwayaddisoncounty.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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