Businesses and families aren't the only entities that have had to tighten their belts in today's economy. All three United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties employees had their wages reduced this past year.
Following are the agencies and programs supported by the United Way of Crow Wing County and Southern Cass County:
Bay Lake Area Lions Charities Inc.
Boy Scouts of America - Central Minnesota Council.
Brainerd Lakes Timber Bay.
Bridges of Hope.
Crisis Line and Referral Service.
Central Minnesota Council on Aging.
Confidence Learning Center.
Crow Wing County Victim Services Inc.
Cuyuna Range Food Shelf.
Cuyuna Range Youth Center.
Emily Emergency Food Shelf.
Family Safety Network.
Financial Counseling - LSS.
Foster Grandparents - LSS.
Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines.
Give Kids a Smile.
HOPE Housing - LSS.
Journey Transitional Living - LSS.
Lakes Area Food Shelf - Pequot Lakes.
Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project.
Lakes Area Senior Activity Center.
Lakes Area Team Challenge.
Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota.
Northern Pines Mental Health Center Inc.
PATH Minnesota Inc.
Pillager Family Center.
Pine River-Backus Family Center.
PORT of Crow Wing County.
Safe Ride Home.
Salem WEST - Deerwood.
Sexual Assault Services.
Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen.
The Warehouse - Pine River.
Women's Wellness for All Generations.
Youth as Resources.
In addition, staff development programs have been put on hold and the United Way reworked last year's brochure instead of creating a new one.
Heidi Funk, heading into her ninth fundraising campaign as United Way executive director, said she expects this year to be the most difficult year she's seen for a drive, while the needs of the programs and agencies her organization serves are at a high level.
"Our nonprofits need it," she said of the United Way contributions. "They are being stretched."
Typically, contributors are mindful of the demand on food shelves during an economic downturn but Funk pointed out there are many resources that disadvantaged families might need when a wage earner's job is lost. Those needs might include mental health counseling or services provided locally by Lutheran Social Service, such as financial counseling or Hope Housing, she said. By donating to the United Way, she said, area residents can contribute to more than 50 programs and agencies.
"We're bringing in a bigger picture," Funk said. "They need a lot of nonprofits to carry them."
In previous years individuals or businesses might donate from the interest earned on accounts without dipping into the principal of their savings. Now, with interest rates at a low level the amount of interest revenue can be negligible.
"Today, they have very little cream," she said.
Last year's United Way contributions of $350,000, collected just as the economy started a steep downward spiral, was 10 percent less than previous year's donations, Funk said.
"This year we're hoping to hold at that," she said.
Funk has noticed an above average number of inquiries from potential donors who are asking about what a specific agency or program does.
"They're really being wise with their dollars," Funk said of contributors.
Companies are being creative as well, she said, citing one firm that's asking employees to consider giving at the same level they did last year.
Another company she knew of is having a more difficult time. She said the firm generated $17,000 (company and employee donations) two years ago. Last year the company and employees donated $7,000. This year, she said, they might not participate in the drive at all.
Even the United Way's annual chili cook-off showed signs of retrenching with the number of participating teams dropping from 60 to 45. Funk realizes it costs money to enter the cook-off and also requires a donation of company employees' time.
Still, Funk said United Way never seriously considered abandoning the traditional kick-off event, which has become similar to an annual community reunion.
"It's so much fun," she said.
A twist this year, Funk said, is that there will be increased emphasis on the pacesetter campaign being conducted by financial institutions. The pacesetters get an early jump on campaign solicitations and seek to inspire other donors. The participating financial institutions in this year's pacesetter campaign are Lakewood Bank, Riverwood Bank, U.S. Bank, Bremer Bank, Brainerd Savings and Loan and Peoples National Bank. There will be no chair to this year's campaign, Funk said, as the United Way decided to place more emphasis on the community rather than a single person.
According to United Way's Web site the Brainerd area's first United Way drive was in 1969, under the leadership of Penny Johnson. The United Way met its first goal of $45,000.
In 2003 the Brainerd Area United Way became the United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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