Steamboat Springs Routt County United Way officials remain optimistic they can reach their ambitious fundraising goal this season, and they hope the sinking economy motivates people to dig a little deeper for the increasing number of people who will call on United Way-assisted agencies in their times of need.
The local chapter has set a fundraising goal of $600,000, up slightly from the $590,000 raised last year. Despite the bleak economic outlook, United Way board member Roberta Gill said people often are more generous and understanding when times are tough.
"I think the economy is a big factor in everybody's mind, but I also think that when times get tough that people understand even more that the needs are greater for everybody across the board," she said. "Oftentimes, people dig deeper because they assume or they know of people who are in more trouble or who have more issues than they might have had in the past three or four years when the economy was booming."
United Way Executive Director Kelly Stanford said several new businesses have participated in the donor program this year, and some of them even match the donations given by their employees. More than 30 local businesses and many more individuals have partnered with United Way in recent years, she said.
The thermometer on the Routt County Courthouse lawn shows the group at 25 percent of its $600,000 goal, but Stanford said the actual number likely is closer to 40 percent once recent donations are counted. This year's campaign kicked off in mid-September and likely will continue into February.
"This year is a lot like last year, it's a little slow going," Stanford said.
The most challenging part of the fundraising drive is getting help from individual donors who may not feel comfortable donating as much as they have in years past.
"We believe in the power of a lot of small gifts and what a lot of small gifts can do for our economy," Stanford said. "If they don't feel they can give a large level, we don't want that to preclude them from donating a smaller amount."
United Way is a clearinghouse for local human service nonprofit agencies. The group distributes money to 40 such groups, including Integrated Community, Humble Ranch Education and Therapy Center, Partners in Routt County,
Advocates Against Battering and Abuse, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and First Impressions of Routt County, a support group for early childhood programs.
In its most recent annual allocations, United Way gave $512,000 to programs across Routt County.
Gill said she expects funding requests from those agencies to increase this year as the sour economy and changing city character create more need.
"Our demographics in this community are changing as we speak, so that's a huge increase. The economy might affect our tourism, and we are very dependant on sales tax, so when that money's not available, people suffer in this community," she said. "When they suffer, health care costs go up, mental health costs go up and transportation costs go up."
To donate to United Way, call 879-5605.