’Tis the season for giving

Posted: Monday, November 27, 2006

Holiday seasons seem naturally to persuade us toward reflection and spiritual renewal. They serve not only in reinforcing vital familial bonds, but often engender an ardor for altruism for the wider community.

Perhaps nowhere is that better reflected than in the annual outpouring of contributions to the Kenai Peninsula United Way in support of its efforts on behalf of key community nonprofit agencies that provide a host of essential services to peninsula residents from Seward to Homer.

This year’s fundraising campaign, launched earlier this fall with the theme “Investing in Your Community,” already has raised over $270,000 and is well on its way to meeting its ambitious goal of $600,000, said Kenai Peninsula United Way Executive Director Tina Marie Herford.

“The 2006 fundraising effort is going very well,” Herford said Friday.

Volunteers have been visiting local businesses making presentations about the campaign and about the work of the agencies likely to benefit from their collective contributions.

“The Kenai Peninsula United Way is community driven, and every aspect involves volunteers in one way or another,” Herford said.

Every dollar donated to the peninsula United Way remains on the peninsula, Herford said. Only about 15 percent goes to pay for campaign overhead; the rest goes to program services in communities across the peninsula, she said.

This includes such organizations as the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, The Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, and the American Red Cross Kenai Peninsula, as well as various senior centers, youth programs, substance abuse prevention programs, hospices and more.

“The Kenai Peninsula United Way is basically the fundraising arm for the member agencies,” Herford explained. By doing the legwork of encouraging donations from individuals and businesses, United Way helps free the various agencies to devote more time to what it is they do, “and do best,” she said.

Once each year’s campaign is completed, an allocation committee reviews applications from agencies seeking help and divvies up the fundraising proceeds based on specific criteria, Herford said.

“Based on my experience, most requests are met,” she said.

Of course, United Way dollars represent but a part of the budgets of the receiving agencies. Nevertheless, they are an important part. That peninsula residents and businesses are so willing to give never ceases to inspire her, Herford said.

“People are very supportive,” she said. “It makes me feel good to be part of this organization. I’m always so impressed with how generous our community is.”

This year’s goal of $600,000 is the same as last year. Uncertainty in the resource industry that is so much a part of the peninsula’s economy led Sue Carter, the peninsula United Way board chair, to decide against increasing the goal this year, Herford said.

No matter, industry contributors such as Agrium, which despite operating with a much-reduced work force has met and surpassed its 2005 effort, and other members of the oil and gas industry, are stepping up. The same appears to be the case in other sectors of the economy — for instance, Central Peninsula General Hospital and South Peninsula Hospital have shown “phenomenal campaign support,” Herford said.

“It doesn’t seem to make a difference. They always come through with strong support,” she said of the peninsula’s business community and individuals.

Those wishing to participate have more than one avenue for making donations. They can call the Kenai Peninsula United Way office at 283-9500 for information, or write to Kenai Peninsula United Way, 508 S. Willow St., Suite D, Kenai, AK, 99611.

They can contribute by cash, check or credit card. People may make one-time donations, or set up periodic donations automatically billed to credit cards.

Many businesses provide opportunities to make small periodic donations through payroll deductions. Many companies match what employees contribute, Herford said.

Businesses not already in contact with United Way who might wish to have a volunteer make a presentation to their employees have only to call the United Way office to arrange an appointment, Herford said. Presentations take about 25 minutes and include a 13-minute video showing how and where donations are used on the peninsula.

“Just give us a call,” she said.

Donations specifically for the 2006 campaign will be accepted through April 15, 2007, Herford said.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.



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