United Way expects 5K shortfall

ST MARYS — The United Way of Auglaize County was approximately $50,000 shy of its $350,000 fundraising goal as of Wednesday, but organizers are projecting only a $5,000 to $7,000 shortfall by the time corporate payroll-deduction giving is included, which represents small donations from individuals.

United Way Director Randy Fisher said the challenge of any decrease in giving is that funds are already tight. To meet the needs of all organizations supported by United Way would require $600,000, the kind of money that hasn’t been available since the economically booming 1990s.

In fact, last year was the first year United Way made its annual giving goal since 1998.

When the budget is a little more than half that amount, funds have to be distributed in a way that addresses high-priority needs first, the needs of people in crisis, and work up to big-picture and prevention needs.

One challenge in fundraising is the perception that Auglaize County has very few people in need, Fisher said. In actuality a high number of students are qualifying for free and reduced priced lunches across the county. Students in nice-looking, parochial communities are taking home backpacks of food to help their families make it through the weekend, he said.

Also, he said while the county shows strong employment numbers, it is also under-employed. Many workers are in temporary positions, making less in factories than a non-temp worker standing next to them doing the same job.

Fisher said people have a perception the United Way is helping people who don’t work, when in actuality, many working people are having trouble with basic needs, like having gas vouchers to get to chemotherapy through the Auglaize County Cancer Association.

Fisher once accepted help from an organization supported by the United Way, when he had a child in the hospital. Six years ago, he and his wife worked, but when their child was born with an under-developed heart, she had to be flown from hospital to hospital. Her parents had to drive to see her.

An organization supported by United Way offered his family gasoline vouchers during this difficult time when Fisher was driving to see her, making him able to spend time with his child before she died.

“Every moment I spent with my daughter was precious,” Fisher said. “That’s partly why I’m so passionate about this. It’s not just the poor. It’s people who play by the rules, and do what they’re supposed to do who are affected.”

The United Way, while sponsoring a food bank, tax preparation, and the Day of Caring, is largely a checkbook organization that financially helps other non-profits.

Fisher estimates the United Way helps 25,000 of the 46,000 in Auglaize County through member organizations. Almost all the money raised is spent locally.