WALLA WALLA — It’s United Way campaign time and Executive Director Christy Druffel has the typical goals in mind — raise money, get more volunteers on board and let donors know about the organization’s work on local mental-health treatment expansion.
Then there’s the plan to educate people on just what United Way is and why they should care.
That’s the big one, Druffel said.
“I think there are a lot of people who don’t understand what United Way does, especially that local donations stay right here,” she said.
Many of the Walla Walla organizations that receive United Way grants every year depend on the money, she explained. “Maybe not always for day to day operation, but for the programs they offer.”
The effect of those dollars is usually behind the scenes, she added. To illustrate her point, Druffel created “A day in the life” of a United Way donation time line:
It begins at 6:30 a.m. when a child wakes up in a home that needs parenting and life skills — money from the agency helps fund parenting support programs and child welfare organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Children’s Home Society of Washington, she said.
During the day, someone is learning to read, thanks to dollars for literacy programs at agencies like Blue Mountain Action Council. Across town, caregivers of the elderly are getting respite time while their charges get lunch and physical therapy at Walla Walla Senior Center.
So it goes in a 24-hour cycle, she continued. United Way grants helping pay for after school programs at the YMCA, Camp Fire USA and YWCA. Money also goes to utility assistance through Helpline, Salvation Army and Blue Mountain Action Council, and supports mentoring through Friends of Children of Walla Walla.
United Way money helps ensure the YWCA’s domestic violence shelter can offer services to women and their children and help the American Red Cross provide food, clothing and shelter to victims of fire.
The organization partners with 16 other service providers in the Walla Walla Valley to produce 28 programs reliant on United Way funding, Druffel said. “These programs support families, the young and the old.”
The 2013-2014 United Way campaign chairs are Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Mick Miller and his wife Shannon Miller, who are overseeing a fundraising goal of $500,000.
Last year’s campaign aimed for $445,000 in donations and finished with $428,177.
The high goal this year is intended to help the United Way catch up the general fund after it put $70,000 of that into a three year “community impact” grant to hire a mental health professional at Family Medical Center, Druffel said.
She and her board recognize the responsibility of being stewards of the donations, most of which come from workplace contributors. That calls for measurable goals in programs receiving funding and maintaining fiscal responsibility.
“That means our donors trust us and we feel its necessary to make sure every dollar is spent wisely and has visible outcome,” Druffel said.