United Way adds 2 organizations to list

Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Two area organizations have been added to the ranks of the Kenai Peninsula United Way.

The American Red Cross Kenai Peninsula Branch and the Seward Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program were granted member agency status, meaning they will be included in the upcoming United Way fund-raising campaign.

The Kenai Peninsula United Way is one of 1,400 United Way branches around the country. The organization partners with health and human resource related nonprofit agencies and operates an annual fund-raising campaign to support the agencies.

"We raise money for them so they can spend their time providing programs," said Evy Gebhardt, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula United Way.

Because the peninsula agency has been so successful in the past several years -- campaign funds grew from $580,000 in 2000 to $750,000 in 2001 -- the United Way board of directors decided to add more partners this year.

Area organizations submitted reams of paperwork and made presentations to area committee members.

"We looked at areas we had gaps and Seward was one of those. Civil Air Patrol is a good opportunity for us to expand to that community," Gebhardt said. "And the Red Cross is something we see as a big need here in the local community."

The American Red Cross provides relief to victims of natural disasters, as well as volunteer training geared toward the preparedness, prevention and response to emergencies.

The Kenai Peninsula branch, which is stationed in Soldotna, is staffed by one employee and runs operations out of a converted bedroom in the Bridges Community Resource Network offices.

Petite as the operation may seem, the organization is constantly busy reaching out to the community, said branch manager Debra Holle.

"The work the Red Cross does is very important to this community," she said. "We have a lot of risks, everything from earthquakes to wind storms. And it seems a single family on the peninsula loses everything they have about once a month."

The Red Cross provides money and vouchers for food, shelter and clothing for families affected by a home fire or other natural disaster. When larger emergencies hit, such as last winter's south peninsula wind storm, the Red Cross sets up emergency shelters.

The organization also provides first aid and CPR training for community members to build a base of preparedness in the community.

"I know we're doing a good job. I think the United Way will be very pleased with the way we're spending," Holle said. "This will be a tremendous help."

Civil Air Patrol deputy commander Duane Chase also was excited about the opportunity to join the United Way. Any funding CAP receives will help support the Seward organization's cadet program for youth ages 12 to 18.

"What it means is that we will be able to fully fund the program," Chase said. "It will probably mean in addition to full funding, we will be able to expand the program."

The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program offers education in aerospace, leadership, physical fitness and moral leadership. The program also includes activities such as flying, model building and community service projects.

"This is a very exciting opportunity for us to grow and expand the program that is becoming increasingly popular in Seward," Chase said.

The new United Way member agencies will be eligible to receive funds from the organization's annual community fund-raising campaign, which will run from Sept. 15 to the end of October.

The United Way will kick off the annual drive with a Kenai Fjords trip out of Seward Sept. 2, a celebration in Kenai Sept. 12 and an event in Homer later in September.

United Way representatives will visit chamber of commerce meetings and area businesses, providing information on member agencies and working to collect community support for the members.

Though the fund-raising campaign has not officially started, community members can still contribute to the United Way umbrella fund to support the American Red Cross, Civil Air Patrol and the other 26 agencies in the program. To donate, call the Kenai Peninsula United Way at 283-9500.

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