Fall weather has returned on the scene and once again United Way of Kitsap County has kicked off its annual Community Campaign throughout Kitsap County. Because many people don’t understand why this annual campaign is so vital, I would like to give you a few reasons why I encourage you to help raise crucial dollars through United Way.
Families relying on county food banks, youth seeking refuge at Coffee Oasis, autistic toddlers getting services at Holly Ridge, or wet and cold homeless veterans taking hot showers in Kitsap Rescue Mission’s mobile shower unit – ALL are hoping for a successful United Way campaign to continue receiving the services that keep them afloat.
Not only that, but United Way is working to broaden its reach in our community. For years, the focus had been on supporting about 36 local agencies that were identified as our community “safety net.” The emphasis now is on collaborating with community partners to identify Kitsap County’s most urgent problems, defining solutions, and then identifying entities in the community that can work together to create those solutions. This is known as a Community or Collective Impact model and it’s an opportunity for United Way to expand and leverage their work throughout the county.
We have seen many reductions in services and funding from all levels of government programs. One of the scariest has been the sequester this past year and the threat of its continuation in the year to come. This impending threat is detrimental to a lot of funding typically provided to the “safety net”. Without the community’s help through United Way, our “safety net” is in even more jeopardy.
On the positive side, United Way funding has helped Coffee Oasis expand its reach to youth throughout the county, providing overnight shelter and job training for teens on the street. Through the Boys and Girls Clubs, after school programs are now available to many families and the new Teen Center in Bremerton should open by early November.
None of this is possible without funding! That is why United Way along with the Kitsap Health District, Harrison Medical Center and the Kitsap Community Foundation have come together as creative sponsors of the Kitsap Community Health Priorities (KCHP) community assessment project. KCHP is bringing non-profits, educators, political leaders, the Navy, business and everyday citizens together to assess and prioritize community needs so that funding efforts can target the most important issues in the community. That is why United Way, the Kitsap Community Foundation and the Suquamish Tribe are working hard together with other partners to explore ways to raise more dollars and bring additional dollars into Kitsap County to increase funding for priority programs and projects.
Please help to ensure a strong campaign this year; the community’s “safety net” depends on the generosity of the community! It is truer today than ever before, we really can do more United than we ever can alone!
Rob Gelder, Kitsap County Commissioner, District 1. Co-Chair, 2013 United Way Annual Campaign