United Way exceeds goals for campaign

Posted: Monday, April 29, 2002

The Kenai Peninsula United Way raised $781,541 this year, which is more than it has ever raised before in its yearly fund-raising campaigns, announced Evy Gebhardt, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula United Way.

Gebhardt reported the results of the campaign at the North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce meeting at North Kenai Baptist Church at noon Thursday.

Last year the United Way raised $580,000, which was $100,000 over its set goal for the year. This year the goal was raised to the ambitious amount of $650,000, under the direction of Bruce Passe, campaign chair.

"When the bar was raised substantially it made our job very formidable," Gebhardt said.

With all the financial philanthropy that surrounded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Gebhardt was worried donations for area charities would be harder to secure.

"I was talking to donors, saying there's still a lot of need here," Gebhardt said. "... We met our goal (and) found out this still is a giving community."

Gebhardt attributed some of the rise in donations this year to a renewed interest in workplace giving campaigns. She also commented that donations from the peninsula rose.

"What we saw was that the bulk of our donations came from the community," she said.

The money raised will now be allocated out to the agencies the United Way funds in the central peninsula, Homer and Seward, like the Boys and Girls Club, the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, senior centers, Hospice and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

The allocation of the money will be decided by a committee of community members who are not affiliated with United Way-funded agencies or the United Way board of directors. The committee will meet Thursday.

Steve Horn, director of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, followed Gebhardt with a presentation about the planned addition to the Challenger facility. This second phase of construction to the center will add a total of 9,500 square feet of dormitories and classroom space on to the facility.

The bidding for construction of the addition will open May 14 and groundbreaking will occur in June, Horn said. The facility is expected to be completed and in use by next summer.

The addition will provide the facility with classroom space, a place to accommodate overnight guests, a commercial kitchen and a convertible banquet space, in addition to more room in general.

"Every night in the center we have people sleeping on the floor," Horn said. "This will provide them with beds to sleep in and showers."

The price tag for the addition is $2.7 million, which is fully financed through money appropriated by Sen. Ted Stevens, Horn said. The maintenance costs for the addition, however, will still have to be found.

"The maintenance budget is going up," Horn said. "It's a blessing to have a state-of-the-art facility, but with that blessing is the burden to maintain it."

Money generated from summer space camps and other uses of the facility can be used to fund the additional maintenance costs, Horn said.

Horn also spoke about the robotics team from Soldotna High School that won an award for most innovative design at a regional competition. Three years ago one school in Alaska built a robot and participated in the contest, Horn said. This year six schools participated.

"My vision for this is that every school on the peninsula have this project," Horn said.

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