United Way falls $15,000 short

Local charity hopes to gather funds in final six weeks of drive

Hood River County United Way announced Monday that its campaign would fall $15,000 short this year, unless additional contributions can be secured in the next six weeks. Failure to reach last year’s amount — and the current campaign’s goal — of $105,000 will force the local United Way to reduce funding to local agencies.

“The wolf is at the door for our local agencies,” said United Way Executive Director Rosie Thomas-Wiley. “State funding is already being cut, and now this will cause further distress for persons already in need. Without United Way funds, programs and staff will be cut all over town. And it’s the people needing the services that will suffer. How can we cut services like emergency shelter, meals for seniors, or the blood bank?”

“This is the most dire circumstance I’ve seen in my nearly 20 years of working with people with disabilities,” said Barbara Briggs, United Way board member and former Executive Director of Columbia Gorge Center. “I don’t think the public really understands that with these kinds of cuts, folks are going to be on the street — out of supported housing, out of group homes, out of choices.”

Paul Blackburn, United Way board member says, “It’s a double hit for these agencies. The economy is down, so demand for social services is up. And now they are looking at cutting programs? That’s really tough to hear.”

Each year, Hood River County United Way channels donations from hundreds of individuals and businesses to around 15 local agencies providing a range of services in the community.

Through the work of volunteers and one part-time staffer, last year 82 percent of money raised went directly to the service providers.

Fortunately, the United Way drive can still make up the shortfall, with funding contributions received through Feb. 1, 2003.

“Hopefully, the community can again step forward to address the shortfall in the time remaining to us.”

Donations to offset the shortfall can be mailed — until Feb. 1 — to Hood River County United Way, PO Box 2, Hood River, OR 97031.

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