United Way kicks off fund-raising campaign

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For the 22nd year, Routt County United Way officials erected their familiar barometer on the courthouse lawn Wednesday, kicking off a fund-raising campaign that will help health and human service agencies and programs throughout the county.

Judging by last season's contributions, the organization shouldn't have any problem reaching its $450,000 goal.

During the 2003-04 campaign, the agency set a $400,000 target and ultimately raised $440,000, the most in its history, United Way Director Millie Beall said.

That amount, however, only began to meet the needs of programs facing severe funding cuts, she said.

"We only hit the tip of the iceberg on filling the gaps from the loss of funding from the federal and state governments," Beall said.

All funds generated in the "Awaken Your Giving Spirit" campaign will be distributed to more than 35 agencies and programs dedicated to helping infants, the elderly, families, youths and those with special needs in Routt County.

Among the many United Way fund recipients are those children qualifying for scholarships to one of nine nonprofit First Impressions child-care centers and those families receiving help from LIFT-UP, which provides assistance to unemployed individuals and those living in poverty.

Funds also go toward respite care and other needs of residents with developmental disabilities at Horizons Specialized Services.

"It's really important, and it really helps us," Horizons resource development coordinator Kay Borvansky said.

She explained that United Way member agencies may apply for special needs or emergency grants several times a year. Horizons recently received a new client, for example, who will require $86,000 in additional services, Borvansky said.

Flanked by dogs wearing colorful bandanas, Heeling Friends director Lynette Weaver explained that United Way funds will be very important in operating her program, which takes dogs to visit patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center and Doak Walker Care Center. The Heeling Friends program is a new United Way member.

The biggest recipient of United Way funds is the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, which has experienced an "enormous" loss of state funds, Beall said.

Direct mailings and presentations to businesses comprise the bulk of United Way's fund-raising efforts. Though the campaign goes through November, organizers leave the door open for additional donations -- particularly those from resort employees and companies -- until January, Beall said.

Individual donations typically comprise about one-third of raised funds, corporate donations make up another third, and employee payroll deductions comprise the final third, she explained.

Twentymile Coal Co., which has 150 employees, already has completed its campaign, raising $91,000 for Routt County and Moffat County United Ways.

Using various incentives, the company encouraged employees to contribute $15,000 in payroll deductions. It then matched that amount, bringing total donations to the Routt County campaign to $30,000, about $8,000 more than the company gave last season, Beall said.

Companies aren't the only ones stepping up to the fund-raising plate. Second-home owners also have responded to the campaign, helping boost total funds raised by 37 percent from four years ago, Beall said.

Because the United Way is the only unified charity working on behalf of health and human services in the county, Beall said the fund-raiser is "one-stop shopping" for some donors looking to benefit numerous community programs.

Lore Tracht, co-chairwoman of resource development, pointed out that United Way funds are important in helping agencies and programs secure grants from other foundations, which often want to see local support for a cause. It's crucial then, that the United Way is able to give to all of is member agencies and programs, she said.

"We have a huge goal this year, but we think we'll meet it. ... It's critical," Tracht said.

Residents may make donations to the campaign by visiting the Routt County United Way office, 135 Sixth St., or by calling 879-5605.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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