Serving up success

United Way kicks off 2003 campaign

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— The generosity of strangers ensured boys and girls in Routt County got essential dental work today. It guaranteed senior citizens a ride to the grocery store. It made jobs possible for adults with developmental disabilities.

Residents in the county raised more than $326,000 in 2002 for infants, the elderly, families, youths and those with special needs.

Routt County United Way is asking residents to reach a little deeper in 2003 and raise $365,000 for agencies and human-service programs in the county.

"People were very compassionate (in 2002)," Routt County United Way director Millie Beall said.

The nonprofit organization kicked off its 2003 campaign Wednesday. State and federal cutbacks have intensified local agencies' and human-service programs' need for United Way funding.

A recent canvass Beall conducted of 10 agencies that depend on United Way funds revealed an estimated $475,000 shortfall in outside funding.

"That's almost half a million not coming in from the state that they expected," she said. "We locally are going to have to step up so we can continue to have those services."

Any nonprofit organization or program that meets health or human-service needs in the county qualifies for United Way funding.

Twenty-six nonprofit organizations that span age groups and abilities and social and economic backgrounds will benefit from the 2003 campaign.

"It's literally everything from birth to death," Beall said.

United Way contributions allow the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition to provide full dental care for underprivileged children in Routt County.

"We are so lucky that we have United Way that believes in our mission and is there to help us help these children," Executive Director Debi Garoutte said.

The organization received $9,000 in 2002 to bring the "Miles for Smiles" mobile dental van to several communities.

The van houses a complete dentist office, so children whose parents cannot afford a visit to the dentist's office have access to a full scope of services at reduced rates.

The Miles for Smiles staff sees countless cases of youngsters in serious oral health because parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford dental insurance.

"These are the ones that fall between the cracks," Garoutte said.

Support from the United Way is critical, she added, because so many children would otherwise go without essential dental care.

"Without United Way funds, we would not even have a Dental Coalition," she said.

United Way funds cover more than 10 percent of the Routt County Council on Aging's annual expenditures.

"It's very important for our general operating expenses," program director Shelley Orrell said.

The organization received $15,000 in 2002 to meet senior citizens' transportation, nutritional, educational and recreational needs.

More than 500 elderly residents in the county took advantage of the council's 2002 offerings.

The organization sponsors "meals on wheels," social activities and rides to enhance senior citizens' qualities of life.

"It's helping them stay independent in their homes," Orrell said. "We hope it's making an impact."

Support from the Routt County United Way varied in 2002 from $40,000 for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association to $2,000 for the Boy Scouts of America Western Colorado Council.

Executive director Keith Adler said the $2,000 supported a day camp for 40 Cub Scouts in Hayden.

The youngsters had fun learning new skills, he said. United Way funding pays for monthly visits by professional Boy Scout staff to Steamboat Springs, literature and other materials.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, like many nonprofit organizations, will rely more heavily on United Way funding with the loss of state funding.

"It's definitely a huge thing for us here," clinical assistant Charity Robinson said. "We're really hurting for funding."

Planned Parenthood holds office hours in Oak Creek twice a month and serves clients from as far away as Craig and Walden.

Men and women receive basic and reproduction health care, including yearly exams, cancer screening, confidential HIV testing, midlife services and cholesterol testing.

United Way funding allows Horizons to deliver more services to its clients. State funding does not cover early intervention for developmentally disabled infants and toddlers or programs that help developmentally disabled adults find housing and employment.

"The state pays for just the bare essentials and sometimes that doesn't even cover everything," Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen said. "If we relied just on our funding from the state, we would have a waiting list for kids from birth to 3 years old."

United Way's support shows the state that Horizons has local support, she said.

"United Way is one of the ways that we demonstrate that we have support from our community," Mizen said.

Routt County United Way also awards up to $1,000 to programs within the county that depend on volunteers, such as Hayden Babe Ruth Baseball and the Steamboat Springs Figure Skating Club.

One-time donations are available for needs that pop up during the year. Almost $14,000 has funded special-need requests in 2002.

"As always, as our community grows, so do the needs," Beall said.

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