United Way cuts funding to agencies by 30 percent

By Rozella Hardin

   The Elizabethton/Carter County United Way is $10,800 closer to its goal, thanks to a check this past week from the Alcoa Foundation, but it is still about $75,000 short of its $205,000 goal.
   United Way agencies in January received a check for only 70 percent of their approved allocation because of not meeting the goal. Also, Brenda Wallace, director of the Elizabethton/Carter County United Way, said the office hours will be cut from 20 hours to 16 hours a week. The office will only be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Salaries of Wallace and the office director have also been cut 20 percent.
   "We have cut in every way that we can. We cannot operate if we go any lower than that," Wallace told the board of directors this week.
   "Although we have only received about two-thirds of our goal and the amount to fully fund the agencies of United Way, the first check was cut by only 30 percent and that was stretching it," said Wallace.
   The $10,800 check presented to United Way by the Alcoa Foundation represents pledges by employees of the firm. Alcoa is closing its Elizabethton plant, and last week sent out the first of its lay-off notices to employees. "Ninety notices went out Wednesday, and each week there will be more notices go out. They are being given 60-day notices," said Sandra Monger, who represents Alcoa on the United Way board of directors. "This check ($10,800) represents the amount of pledges that employees would have given this year. As long as there are employees at the plant, their pledges will remain active and what they give will be over and above this check," Monger said, noting that the corporate check of $7,500 is also forthcoming.
   The United Way directors expressed both relief and gratitude for the check, which will make up for the shortfall of pledges from Alcoa employees who are losing their jobs.
   "It is getting very hard to make up the differences," said Wallace. "We know that we will be losing some funds as a result of Fingerhut closing. We just don't know how much yet," she said.
   "There are lots of reasons people are not giving. When people are losing their jobs, they can't give. Others, who may lose their jobs, are holding on to what they have," Wallace said.
   "What the community has to realize is that most of the agencies funded by United Way cannot operate without community funding. They depend on us," she said.
   Agencies funded by the United Way include the Carter County Chapter of the American Red Cross, Community Day Care and Learning Center, Emergency Child Shelter, Senior Citizens Center, UETHDA Elizabethton Neighborhood Service Center, ARM-Assistance and Resource Ministries, Boys and Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County, Boy Scouts-Sequoyah Council, and Frontier Health.
   Concern was voiced that the United Way is not getting its message out, and that the community perhaps has the wrong perception of whom United Way funds help. "They are not deadbeats," said Wallace, "but they are our neighbors, the people who we go to church with. Many of them have need for food, shelter. They are elderly, handicapped, have disabilities. Some have been abused. Some are lonely. All of us know someone who is served by the agencies," she explained.
   Board members said the challenge is to educate the public about what United Way does, and the people it helps. "We need to educate the public," said Loretta Pierce, board member.
   Also, Wallace said many Carter Countians, who work in other counties and donate to United Way, fail to designate their donation for the Elizabethton/Carter County United Way. "This would help us a lot," she said.
   "It is just a difficult time for everyone. People are getting laid off, industries are closing, and it's a difficult time to raise money," opined Richard Tester, board member.
   Persons who would like to donate to United Way can still do so. Checks may be mailed to the United Way of Elizabethton/Carter County, P.O. Box 1715, Elizabethton, TN 37644-1715. All donations are tax deductible.
   The board accepted the resignations of Scott Williams and Bobby Lyons and added Scott Oliver.