On March 14, United Way, along with the Red Cross, will launch its 2003 Campaign to raise funds for the Human Service providers in our community. With fundraising abilities hindered by the challenges of a weakened economy, the organization will rely heavily on the support of donators this year.

“In this time when revenues are dwindling because of state and federal budget cuts, there is an even greater demand for the services provided by United Way supported programs,” Associate Communications Director for United Way of Greater Rochester Becky Cania said.

In 2002, United Way raised $35.8 million, all of which was allocated to the more than 270 health and human service providers in our community. UR faculty, staff and retirees donated over $846,000 of that total. Once again, United Way is hoping for similarly charitable contributions from the campus this year.

UR President Thomas Jackson recently sent an e-mail to the UR community, urging all to participate in the 2003 campaign. “I encourage you to give generously this year,” he said. “Every dollar you pledge goes to meet community needs.”

During the spring campaign, United Way’s primary fundraising appeal, many people make pledges through direct payroll deductions made possible by campaigns run by hundreds of local companies, organizations and labor unions. Since United Way’s operating expenses are covered entirely by earnings from its Community Endowment Fund, every dollar given to the campaign goes directly towards helping people in the community with special needs.

United Way volunteers continuously study the changing needs of the community, as well as the impact of past funding, to develop programs and initiatives that will best serve Rochester. When citizens pledge their donations to the United Way’s Community Endowment Fund, volunteers then invest these contributions according to the level of need determined by the results of their local research.

The efforts of today’s volunteers still reflect the commitments of the community leaders who initially founded what eventually became United Way, over eighty years ago. The Rochester War Chest was the first organization in this area to dedicate itself wholly to the need for a combined charitable appeal in Rochester.

The group’s original goal was to raise financial support for war relief during World War I, but the campaign, renamed the Community Chest, continued even after the war ended.

The combined service group, known as the United Community Chest of Greater Rochester, laid the foundation for Rochester’s current community fundraising association, United Way. Despite many changes within the group, the mission of its volunteers remains the same — as United Way advertises, “We are an organization of donors committed to making our community a better place to live.”

Although United Way has yet to set a precise goal for this year’s campaign, the organization hopes to match the success achieved during its long history so that it can continue to offer aid to approximately 800,000 people who benefit from its services.

“Since 1918, United Way has been taking care of our own in the greater Rochester area,” regional president Kenneth Bell said. “Last year, United Way answered more than 825,000 calls for help in our seven-county area. This year, we have even bigger goals in sight.”

Fitzgerald can be reached at cfitzgerald@campustimes.org.

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