United Way just over halfway to $190,000 goal

By Greg Miller

STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
As was evident during Monday's December meeting of the United Way of Elizabethton/Carter County, the Grinch may be trying to steal Christmas from the organization.
   According to the organization's executive director, Brenda Wallace, only 53 percent of the 2003 United Way budget has been accumulated. To date, $101,035.19 has been received.
   Approximately $40,000 to $50,000 that usually comes in from local sources is still on the United Way's Christmas wish list.
   "It is really important that they go ahead and send in their pledge," Wallace said. "We can bill them later, if that's what they wish."
   The United Way is on a course to raise $150,000 of its $190,000 goal. "If we don't raise the money, then we don't have the money to give them (member agencies)," Wallace said. "It's really important right now. I know this is a hard time for everybody. It's going to get a whole lot worse."
   Wallace said the organization isn't ready to close its doors but that help is needed from the community to support member agencies so that they can continue to provide needed services.
   Local residents are urged to donate what they can.
   "We need for people to be aware that these agencies are suffering, and so many of the agencies that provide food and shelter and these kinds of things are low on food, low on funds to provide shelter and energy assistance and this kind of thing. If these agencies go under; if they don't get the money, that's that many more people that won't receive any services."
   It is "very likely" that some of the smaller agencies supported by the local United Way could go out of business if budget goals are not met.
   "Bigger agencies such as the Boy Scouts, the Boys Club, Frontier Health, the agencies that are much larger and have other sources of income will probably do okay," Wallace said. "They'll survive, but the smaller agencies may not. They're struggling."
   The closing of Alcoa has made a huge difference in the local United Way's income. The closing resulted in a shortfall of approximately $25,000 in donations to the United Way here, Wallace said.
   The United Way is funding the local Red Cross on a "temporary" basis through the first quarter of 2003. "We will meet in March and decide if we continue," Wallace said. "They are trying to hire a service person from this county, from this community, to work up there in the office."
   The person hired by the Red Cross will probably work about five hours per day, four days per week, Wallace said. "That way, they can take care of local emergencies and disasters themselves, instead of somebody out of Kingsport having to do it. They will be able to do service to the military and everything right there, and they won't have to go through somebody else."
   Neither Wallace nor Tina Garrison, who also works in the United Way office, have insurance or other benefits through the United Way. Both are working reduced hours, and their salaries have been reduced by 20 percent. "Now we're having trouble getting everything done in the number of hours that we're here," Wallace said.
   The local United Way was re-organized in 1981. "I've been here since '85," Wallace said. "I can remember times we raised $250,000 without any trouble at all."
   The board voted to approve three new members: Grace Ann Estep, Carter County Bank; Judy Jones, Iron Works Gym; and Gene Sams, State Farm Insurance.
   Agencies which are a part of the United Way of Elizabethton/Carter County include Red Cross, Community Day Care and Learning Center, Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center, UETHDA Elizabethton Neighborhood Service Center, Assistance and Resource Ministries, Inc. (ARM), Boys & Girls Clubs of Elizabethton/Carter County, Boy Scouts-Sequoyah Council, and Frontier Health.
   For more information, or to make a donation or a pledge, write to United Way of Elizabethton/Carter County, P.O. Box 1715, Elizabethton, TN 37644, or call 543-6975.