United Way fund drive off to slow start

Posted: Thursday, December 07, 2000

Organizers of this year's United Way fund-raising campaign are holding their collective breath as they wait for contributions to come in.

Most of the campaign pitching has been done, and checks are just now starting to trickle in to Kenai Peninsula United Way headquarters.

"We've been doing our campaigning and now the money is coming in," said United Way Executive Director Evy Gebhardt. "We really don't know how well we did until it pans out months from now."

This year's goal is $475,000, which is $25,000 more than last year.

Campaign chair Bob Favretto, owner of Kenai Chrysler Center, said early returns are looking good.

"Until now we couldn't really put a finger on how we've done compared to last year, but we seem to be ahead of last year at this time," he said. "I love to be optimistic, but I'm just a little hesitant and have to be realistic."

Favretto said the fund-raising is ongoing. In fact, he and Gebhardt will make a campaign presentation to Favretto's own 50 employees tonight. And Friday, he said, the United Way is due to receive a sizable contribution from Phillips Petroleum at the Kenai Peninsula 2000 Economic Outlook Forum at the Soldotna Sports Center. Gebhardt said she expects it to be a $40,000 check.

Gebhardt said all the major corporations on the peninsula have been contacted, but she would like to get more involved with smaller businesses.

"Sometimes companies with just three or four employees want to get involved," she said.

Many large organizations offer pretax payroll deductions over the course of the year and quite a few have programs where the company will match an employee's contribution at 50 or 75 cents on the dollar, or even one-to-one.

"That's wonderful for us," Gebhardt said.

She said contributions are welcome from people in all strata of society.

"Every contribution is valuable," she said. "Even if it's (from) someone who is in an entry-level minimum wage job, it's just as valuable."

Gebhardt said her best experience since the campaign kicked off Sept. 14 came when she spoke to third-graders at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School about volunteers and how that helps the United Way survive.

"When I was done, one little kid came up to me and gave me a dollar bill," she said. "The kids realize that philanthropy is not just for big corporations. What a rewarding experience."

The United Way supports 27 agencies, including Hospice of the Central Peninsula, the Boys and Girls Club, the Food Bank, Salvation Army, Community Care Center, Boy and Girl Scouts and Campfire Kids, Forget Me Not Care Center, Women's Resource and Crisis Center, the Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling and Ninilchik senior centers and Frontier Community Services.

The campaign ends April 15, and funds will be allocated on May 3 by a group of volunteers. The payments to the agencies will be doled out quarterly.

"We don't have $450,000 in the office on May 3, because payroll deductions are ongoing," Gebhardt said.

Individuals who have not seen a United Way presentation at their work place but want to contribute can call Gebhardt at the United Way office in Kenai at 283-9500.

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