By Tim Leeds
The United Way of Hill County fell short of its goal this year by $38,000. But the amount it collected should be enough to keep local agencies operating, officials said.
"We got (enough funding) so none of these agencies would be in critical condition," United Way treasurer Rob Floren said today.
"The people of Hill County still came through, even though they're in pretty tough times," Floren said. "They really came through toward the end of the year."
The United Way board met this morning to approve funding for the 20 local agencies it supports.
The United Way has collected $87,000, although some donations haven't been counted, Floren said. The numbers should be finalized this afternoon.
This year's goal was $125,945, an increase of about $16,000 over last year's goal.
The United Way will be able to provide more than 80 percent of the amounts requested by local agencies, Floren said.
Don Bleak, director of the North Havre Community Services Food Bank, said the cut will probably reduce the amount of food it can provide.
"Not just for here, but for everybody that gets United Way funding, it's going to be a tight squeak this year," he said.
Vic Miller, executive director of District IV Human Resources Development Council, said that's true for the other HRDC programs that receive United Way funding. HRDC administers the food bank and other programs that receive United Way funding, including a domestic abuse program, Child Care Link and a mentoring program.
"I don't think we'll lose any services. We'll just have to kind of tighten our belts," Miller said.
Roxanne Ross, director of the domestic abuse program, agreed. Most HRDC programs have diverse funding sources so that when one source is reduced, the programs become more conservative with how they use their other funding, she said.
"If that funding was cut totally, it would be a different story," she said. "(This) just makes it a little more difficult to do the work."
Miller, who took over as HRDC director in January, said he thinks Hill County may have reached the saturation point for donations and that the United Way and the agencies it funds won't be able to expect increases.
"Part of my short-term goal is to go search for outside funding, outside of the area," he said.
Bleak said he is doing that as well. He has applied for some grants, but doesn't know about the status of the applications.
Other sources help, he added. Local grocery stores donate food, and people make donations directly to the food bank. But the donations generally aren't enough to maintain the food supply and pay for utilities and other expenses, he said.
Floren said that because people came through in 2001 with donations after the funding drive was extended, the United Way board thought the goal could be increased. It approved new funding requests from the Court Appointed Special Advocate Association and the Bear Paw Youth Guidance Home.
Other requests were increased because state funding was reduced for some of the agencies United Way helps fund, Floren added.
The United Way board in late November of 2001 extended its funding drive deadline. The drive was $52,000 short of its goal of about $110,000 at that point.
By the end of January 2002, the donations jumped to more than $105,000, just short of the goal.
This year's drive had a worse beginning. On Nov. 8 the United Way reported collecting $27,000 toward its goal, compared with $50,000 in November 2001.
The $60,000 collected since November has made the difference in keeping some crucial services operating, Floren said.
"Any amount was greatly appreciated," he said. "Some of the guys came through and kicked in even more than last year."
Low collection drives are happening all over the state, Floren said. Even with the shortfall, the Hill County United Way came closer to its goal than those in many communities this year, he said.
"Some of those communities are in dire straits," he added.