A born and raised Californian, Tina Herford's family and friends never thought she would make it here.
"My family placed bets on the fact that I would not survive in Alaska," Herford said.
Going on 10 years living on the Kenai Peninsula, she has fallen in love with the community, she said, and now is working on making it better.
After spending more than eight years working for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, Herford was hired as executive director of the Kenai Peninsula United Way and is involved in a campaign to drive the organization to its $600,000 fund-raising goal for 2004.
The United Way provides financial help and support to 26 health and human service agencies on the peninsula. It also educates the community about this sector's needs and develops and su-pports the voluntary efforts of the nonprofit sector.
"We are making an incredible difference across the peninsula," she said.
Since moving to the area, Herford has more than dabbled in the activities offered here, becoming and avid fisher, among other things, she said.
She said she feels the community is like a family to her.
"The community just welcomed me with open arms," she said.
Her way to feel even more a part of it is to become actively involved, she said.
"Coming on board, I've met a lot of the volunteers working for United Way. Their passion inspires me," she said.
However, Herford knows to continue to improve the organization and the community, passion is only one ingredient. Proper funding is needed to continue its services, she said.
David Gilbreath, campaign chair for the United Way's 2004 campaign and CEO of Central Peninsula General Hospital, said Herford's business background and experience make her a good choice for the executive director position.
"I think Tina brings a lot," he said.
Gilbreath said he has been impressed with her focus on the fund-raising goal and the need to ensure it is reached.
With their goal higher than last year, she anticipates the efforts to be a challenge, but obtainable.
To date, $522,000 has been raised.
However, while making some routine telephone calls recently to drum up financial support, Herford was blown away at an offer. The person on the other end, Bob Penney, offered a challenge grant of $39,000 half of the remaining money to reach the 2004 goal. Securing that contribution is contingent on raising the same amount of money from the rest of the community by April 15.
"It's an incredibly generous offer," Herford said. "I really believe that people are going to come together and make it happen."
She is working with volunteers on the campaign's final leg to meet the challenge.
Any donation is welcome, whether it is a check with lots of zeros or some pocket change, she said.
"There have been a number of challenges in my life where people say this is not possible. I think anything is possible," she said.
Gilbreath said the community is generous, and he is confident it will rally in the last few weeks of the campaign to meet the goal.
While the community grows, there also is an increase in the need for the services of organizations that assist people down on their luck senior citizens, families and youth, to name a few, he said.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that the goal can be surpassed," Gilbreath said.
To make a donation, call the United Way at 283-9500 or stop by the office at 508 S. Willow, Suite D, in Kenai.
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