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Advancing the common good
The United Way of Kitsap County is one month into the 2008 Annual Fundraising Campaign and so far it looks promising, however, it is too early to be too hopeful. Last year at this same time we did not have our pledge from the Boeing Employees; this year that pledge is in, unfortunately it is $18,000 less than last year. The good news is that Harrison Medical Center, under the leadership of Scott Bosch, set a campaign goal this year of $150,000 and I received a report the other day that they have pledges of more than $162,000.
This year more than ever in the recent past, the United Way campaign has to do well. With the economy in the shape it is in, with housing foreclosures reaching epidemic proportions and gas prices as high as they are, many individuals and families in our community are in serious trouble.
In recent studies provided to me by United Way of America, given the cost of living today, a family needs to earn at least 2.5 times the federal poverty level to be considered financially stable in most communities. The percentage of working families that earn less than this has stagnated over the past decade. According to the report, about 23 percent of working families fall below that level. More than one-third of lower-income working families spend greater than 40 percent of their income on housing. On average, a family needs to earn at least $15 per hour so that housing does not overwhelm their monthly budget. Many millions of families earn far less than $15 per hour — even when two members are pooling their wages.
Today, here in Kitsap County, many of our non-profit agencies are being inundated with requests for help by families just to get enough money to put gas in their cars so they can get to work and keep their jobs. A collaborative partnership is now underway with St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Bremerton Foodline, Kitsap Community Resources and United Way to develop a program called Gas 4 Work to help those working poor get to work. United Way applauds this collaborative work and encourages other agencies to come together at this time to explore innovative solutions to help those in our community most in need.
I applaud the employees of Harrison Medical Center for their special efforts and recognition that in these economic times when things are especially tough and trying that a little extra effort is needed. Kitsap County government is getting ready to kick-off its annual campaign drive for United Way and I think Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery and Director of Information Services Bud Harris have it right. They came up with the slogan for the county campaign, “The tougher the time, the more the need.”
This year the times are truly tough and the need is great. The United Way campaign helps to support 36 of Kitsap County’s most critical health and human service agencies. They depend on United Way to help them continue to operate critical programs in our community that help keep lower-income, working poor and vulnerable families warm, safe and with food on the table.
I realize nearly everyone is being affected by the current economic conditions, some more than others, but I ask each of you to help. Our campaign this year is Advancing the Common Good, Give, Advocate, Volunteer: Live United. This is not just a slogan; it’s a call to action. Our work at United Way requires collaboration across all sectors — business, big and small, elected officials, nonprofits, academia, the faith community, labor, the media, parents and neighbors. Working together, we can accomplish things that no organization, no individual and no government can accomplish on its own. Right now, today, we must and we can reach out a hand and influence the conditions in our community. We can help those in our community who are struggling; we can make a difference in the lives of children, families, the vulnerable and the aging. We can advance the common good for the whole community. Please, consider making a tax exempt gift to United Way; help us this year break all fundraising records as we strive to help support the Kitsap community. Your help is needed more than ever before.
For more information, visit the Web site at www.unitedwaykitsap.org or call (360) 377-8505. Tax-deductible gifts can be mailed to United Way of Kitsap County, 647 Fourth St., Bremerton, WA 98337.
David L. Foote is the executive director of United Way of Kitsap County