United Way donations down, but spirits high
July 3, 2008 · Updated 5:16 PM
Perhaps the most stressful United Way campaign in Island County history came to an official close Wednesday with the annual awards luncheon at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club.
The campaign began in early September, just before the terrorism attacks that shocked the world and sent the economy into a tailspin. Boeing soon made the first of what will be 30,000 job cuts in this region, and other businesses tightened their belts for the recession.
It all had a negative impact on the United Way campaign in Island County, which collected about 15 percent less in 2001 than the prior year in donations from businesses and their employees.
Still, the campaign produced an impressive $350,000 which is essential to the agencies it helps, particularly as they brace for increased human needs produced by the recession. The United Way helps support many Island County agencies, ranging from Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to childrens centers, educational programs, senior services and physical and mental health providers.
We faced a special challenge this year, United Ways 2002 president, Rosemary Toft, told the gathering of some 60 community leaders from throughout the island. There was a 15 percent decrease in total contributions, but we hope its just a temporary thing . . . and we felt very lucky it was just 15 percent.
While the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 prompted giving to the national United Way, some of that came at the expense of the local campaigns. The small United Ways of the United States suffered, Toft said.
Steve Guilliford, vice president for allocations, told the crowd that one-third of the donations will go to children and youth programs, 25 percent to counseling services, 18 percent to emergency services, 12 percent to senior services, and 9 percent to health services.
Thats where the money goes. Unfortunately, we are not able to do as much as we did last year, Guilliford said. He later added that allocations to the various agencies were generally cut 15 percent, but there were some exceptions.
Although the numbers werent the best this year, the annual meeting was hardly a doom-and-gloom affair.
Particularly good news came from the Combined Federal Campaign, which solicited $370,000 from federal employees. It was the most successful such campaign ever in Island County, and the money is designated to agencies locally and around the world.
Combined, the two campaigns raised $720,000 from Island County residents to benefit charitable causes.
Many awards were handed out to businesses and employee groups, as well as to those involved in community services.
Toft singled out Oak Harbor school employees for special praise, as they upped their giving by 23 percent over the prior year.