United Way goal needs shot in arm

By David J. Coehrs - dcoehrs@civitasmedia.com

In order to run its campaign to the goal line, the United Way of Fulton County is asking the community for a needed shot in the arm.

According to Executive Director Gina Saaf, current projections show that without some extra donations the non-profit agency won’t reach its anticipated $360,000 mark by the end of the year. If that mark isn’t reached, the Board of Directors will have to determine where to make reductions among the 21 county help organizations United Way assists financially.

“We fund a wide variety of programs that really provide services that an individual needs,” Saaf said. “If we can’t fund all those programs then the community as a whole isn’t going to have all the services they rely on.”

Currently, 80 percent – or approximately $288,000 – of the goal has been reached. The campaign kicked off in August, and relied heavily upon about 35 employee campaigns at local companies for more than half the goal amount. Saaf said after the 2008 recession United Way lost several company campaigns and has yet to recapture them.

The agency also felt the pinch when it lost a $22,000 grant for one of its programs due to government cutbacks.

“We started a bit in the hole this year, but we managed,” Saaf said. “We’re still trying to rebuild after the recession.”

She said over the past couple of years community members have begun to feel more comfortable supporting charities, leading to fair results in last year’s residential campaign. But, like the economy, charitable giving still hasn’t fully recovered. The United Way has yet to achieve pre-recession numbers, such as the $407,000 collected during its most successful campaign in 2005.

“Eventually, I’d like to get back up to that $400,000 range. It’s been attainable before,” Saaf said.

With a minimal advertising budget, the agency relies on making presentations to companies across Fulton County to raise the majority of funds.

Saaf said if the campaign goal isn’t reached most of the organizations United Way supports probably won’t receive the funding they’re accustomed to. And in some organizations the funding constitutes a large share of the budget.

If this year’s $360,000 goal isn’t reached, the Board of Directors will have to meet in January to decide where to start trimming.

“We service the majority of people that are actually working but living paycheck to paycheck,” Saaf said. “These programs are in place so that, in case something happens, we can step up and provide that help.”

All of the contributions remain in Fulton County to support such non-profits as Hands of Grace, Habitat For Humanity, American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Scouts of America, and The Open Door. In fact, United Way has fully funded local Red Cross disaster services for the past few years.

“I grew up here, and I love that everything stays here,” Saaf said. “We do a lot more than most people realize. Thousands of people are impacted through these programs. When we look at hard times…we try to fill the biggest needs with what we have available.”

Contributions are being accepted until Dec. 31. They may be mailed to United Way at 604 S. Shoop Ave., Wauseon, Ohio 43567 or made at unitedwayfultoncountyoh.com.

“Most of the people who hear what we do are excited to be a part of it,” Saaf said.

By David J. Coehrs


David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.