United Way's

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By Carol A. Clark

With the need greater than ever, United Way of Northern New Mexico, serving Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties, is kicking off its “People Matter” 2009 Campaign Wednesday. The event is set to take place from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Los Alamos National Bank lobby at 1200 Trinity Drive.

“Our mission is to engage human and financial resources to improve the quality of life of the people in the communities we serve in Northern New Mexico,” Executive Director Donna Schroeder said.

Monitor Publisher Ralph Damiani is chairing the campaign.

“In this time of uncertainty and depressed economy, the need for the agencies served by the United Way is even greater,” Damiani said. “We hope people understand this and help by giving. And we hope that everyone can come this Wednesday to our kickoff event at the Chamber’s FAN Club event at the LANB.”

Schroeder and her staff, Finance and Campaign Director Marie Marroquin and Marketing Director Carla Gray Weiser, are finalizing preparations for the annual campaign, which they describe as more important than ever because of difficult economic conditions facing many in the community.

“We’re seeing more folks in need and the mental health organizations have so many clients that they have difficulty keeping up,” Schroeder said. “Before, the LANL Foundation picked up some of the slack but now it’s supporting educational programs exclusively. The need we’re seeing is three times more than the money we have.”

United Way doesn’t do any direct funding but rather provides financial support to member agencies that provide programs and services to those in need, she said.

Something causing increasing difficulty for her organization, Schroeder said, is the growing number of people designating their contributions go to organizations other than United Way agencies.

“In years past, we had about a dozen donors designate their contributions go to other nonprofits,” Schroeder said. “That number has grown to 300 to 400 and it’s diluting the money we have available for Northern New Mexico. What makes this situation even more difficult is that since 9/11, we are required to screen and certify every organization designated to receive funding through us, against terrorist organizations. It takes staff a tremendous amount of time to put hundreds of organizations through this process each year.”

It would be greatly appreciated if people designate their donations to the United Way Community Solutions Fund, she said. “The fund allows us to keep our doors open, allocate money to our agencies and provide grant funding,” Schroeder said.

United Way is taking advantage of its Chamber membership to host a FAN Club to kick off their fall campaign, said Member Services Coordinator Katy Korkos of the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce.

“The FAN in FAN Club stands for “Food and Networking” and draws current and potential Chamber members to the monthly event,” she said. “The Chamber also is hosting its annual golf tournament to benefit United Way Sept. 19 at the Los Alamos Municipal Golf Course. Last year’s tournament raised thousands of dollars for the United Way campaign.”

Other campaign activities include a “People Matter” bowling event scheduled 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sept. 27 at Big Rock Bowling Center in Española.

“Eat Dessert First!” is set for 6-9 p.m., Oct. 25 at Central Avenue Grill.

Tickets and registration for all events will be available at the FAN Club, by calling 663-4028 or at the United Way office at 1200 Trinity Drive, Suite 418.

The reason the campaign is called the 2009 campaign is while the money is raised through December 2008, payroll deductions begin and funding is allocated in 2009, she said. Last year the United Way campaign raised $1.7 million and this year’s goal will be announced at Wednesday’s FAN Club, Schroeder said.

For information, to volunteer or contribute, call 662-0800 or access, www.LosAlamos.com/UnitedWay.