Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Painful UW cuts slice into good services

It’s one thing to know, in the abstract, that United Way member agencies will be getting less money. It’s something else to learn that a Boy Scout outreach program that got half a million dollars from United Way of Central Carolinas this year will get 60 percent less for 2009-10.

Today the United Way board approved its disbursements to member agencies for the upcoming year. Anyone paying attention knew the sums would be painful. The recession would have shriveled donations during the fall campaign regardless, but community outrage also lashed the nonprofit agency after publicity about the salary and benefits it was paying its now-fired CEO, Gloria Pace King.

Board chair Carlos Evans described the inevitable result: “There’s a lot of pain here for very good people.”

As you learn of reduced budgets for so many excellent human services programs, two things are important:
Look at the big picture. The cuts weren’t punitive. United Way officials note they reflect priority-setting that tried to put proportionately more money into what they deemed “crucial” services: food, shelter and medical care.

Support programs you believe in with your money and your time. The Salvation Army’s Boys & Girls Club programs, for instance, will lose 45 percent of their United Way allocation, or some $311,000. Big Brothers/Big Sisters’ allocation is down more than 40 percent.
Even agencies that did better – and understand that “better” is merely a relative term – are seeing severe cuts. Crisis Assistance Ministry will lose “only” 22 percent of its United Way funds – in a year when the overall funding available for United Way to give out to its 90-some agencies was 35 percent less.

Times are hard, and our neighbors are suffering. We can’t say this enough. It’s up to each of us to help each other, with our money, our time and our caring.