Our View: Give generously to United Way

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United Way kicked off its 2005 campaign last week with a local goal of raising $500,000, the most in the organization's history.

The goal is ambitious but realistic. There isn't a better way to help our community than donating to the United Way, and we would urge everyone to consider giving generously.

The United Way provides funding to more than 40 agencies in the county. Those agencies provide an array of health and human service functions in the Yampa Valley. Just a few of the organizations that depend on United Way funding include Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, the South Routt Community Center, Routt County Habitat for Humanity and The Haven Assisted Living Center. The United Way helps fund the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice. There are 11 early childhood education programs that receive United Way funding. The United Way funds Heeling Friends and youth baseball and hockey programs in Oak Creek and Hayden.

In short, virtually every agency in the county with a community service mission depends in part on the United Way.

In Colorado, cuts in state funding for health and human service functions have made local contributions more important.

"There are cutbacks in state and federal funding," said Mike Forney, campaign chairman and vice president of the Routt County United Way's board of directors. "But at the same time, the costs have been rising, and the needs have increased."

The beauty of the United Way is that it allows individuals and businesses to give in varying ways. Donors can earmark contributions to go to specific agencies or allow the United Way's board of directors to direct their funds toward agencies with specific needs. Donors can write individual checks or they can give through their companies.

It is important to note that many local companies match employee contributions to the United Way, thus doubling individual investments. Giving to the United Way through payroll deduction is one of the simplest and best ways to help.

Many businesses invite the United Way to make presentations at their companies to encourage employee contributions. This can be an effective fundraising tool.

There are those who resent the push for United Way contributions. There also are those disgruntled employees who see withholding United Way contributions as a way to express displeasure with their employers.

Such cynicism is unfortunate. Withholding contributions doesn't harm employers or businesses. Rather, it hurts children, the elderly, those with mental disabilities, the poor and others who most need our help. We should never allow the methods sometimes used to seek contributions detract from the benefits those contributions provide.

Last year, the United Way raised about $480,000, exceeding its goal by about $30,000. Of the funds raised, 79 percent went directly to Routt County agencies, and 5 percent paid for United Way events. Sixteen percent went to administration. That's more than $370,000 in direct benefits to local agencies.

United Way funds play a critical role in our quality of life. It's one of the best investments we can make in our community. Donate by sending funds directly to the United Way at P.O. Box 774005, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477 or by dropping your donation off at 135 Sixth St. As noted above, many employees can contribute through their employers.

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