United Way hoping to raise the bar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The United Way has a lot of work to do after they officially set their fundraising goal at $515,000 Tuesday.

They have a lot to contend with. Government services are decreasing as funding is cut. Foundations have less money to spend. And yet demand for services has increased as more people lose jobs and the economy continues to be poor. Seventeen agencies receive money from the United Way in Freeborn County, and many of these United Way members said they are seeing more of a demand.

Albert Lea Mayor Jean Eaton, executive director of The United Way, said the stress on the agencies is greater this year. &uot;There’s the stress of the budgets and because we did not make goal last year, there’s that added stress,&uot; she said.

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The United Way raised 96 percent of its goal last year, Eaton said. &uot;Because we didn’t make it last year, we know we have to make it this year,&uot; she said.

She said she thought the community would help make the goal because the need is so obvious.

YMCA director Dennis Dieser said the Y’s need has increased for several reasons. For one, they’ve seen a $14,000 decrease in funding from the city, the family services collaborative and other funding sources over the last two years. But their needs are increasing. He said in addition to rising operational costs, some people that have been laid off can no longer pay their membership. He said the amount of sponsored memberships has increased from about 425 to about 525.

Still, he said he was only asking for about $1,000 more, because he knows resources are limited.

&uot;Knowing the community and the money available in the community, it’s foolish to ask for it, when the money’s not there,&uot; he said.

Kristin Houg, executive director for the Albert Lea Community Child Care Center, said she has seen a greater need. The United Way pays the balance when parents pay on the sliding scale. She said this year was the first year she’s had to dip in the center’s funds to make up some of the difference. She expects more of the same this year, but doesn’t plan on asking for more money, since times are hard on all organizations.

Corky Stanley, a member of the board of directors for the United Way, said that’s not unusual. The requests have only increased from $408,804 to $409,403, for the years 2003 to 2004.

He said the allocation process is designed to follow need. But in the past few years, the margin between requests and allocations has widened. In 2001, agencies requested about $360,900 and received an increase to $364,000. By 2002, it had lowered to a negative margin of $9,000. And for 2003, the request had increased to $408,804, but agencies only received $354,550.

He said agencies are tightening their belts and learning to be more efficient.

Eaton said the larger margin was a result of not making the goal. She said it was key to get the message out that there are needs in the community. But she said she saw a lot of new faces at the fundraising kickoff, and believes the dedication is there to make the goal.

(Contact Tim Sturrock at tim.sturrock@albertleatribune.com or 379-3438.)