By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The United Way of Hill County fund drive is off to a disappointing start, far below schedule for its 2004 goal despite two straight years of lowering the goal.
"Unfortunately, the glass is not even half full yet," said Christy Keto, president of United Way of Hill County. "As of Thursday, we had raised $43,000, a far cry from the $111,000 needed by the 19 agencies we help fund."
Keto said she hopes people will make up the shortfall during the remainder of the fund drive.
Rob Floren, treasurer of United Way of Hill County, said some of the larger businesses have not yet sent in their contribution packets.
"Our packets are coming in slow," he said. "It's still coming in, and it's not too late to give."
Joe Uhl is rural director with Golden Triangle Community Mental Health Center, an agency that receives funding from the United Way. He said if the United Way funding falls short, Golden Triangle will have to use other funds in its budget to make up for the loss, cutting into its services.
"It hits us in some really specific areas. With funding cuts and restrictions on state money, a lot of people have trouble buying their medications," Uhl said.
The United Way funding is used for emergency help to provide medication and housing for Golden Triangle clients, Uhl said. If the agency has to raid its general budget to make up for shortfalls in United Way funding, that forces it to reduce services in areas like outpatient therapy, providing an adult day treatment center for its clients, and providing case management.
Vic Miller, executive director of District IV Human Resources Development Council, said HRDC receives partial funding for four programs through United Way: Child Care Link; the domestic abuse program, particularly the local shelter; the Havre Food Bank; and a mentoring program.
If the funding falls short, as it has the last two years, that calls for finding other funds and cutting back operations.
"You have to try to find the money elsewhere. You just have to trim back," Miller said.
Other agencies that receive funding from the United Way include Court Appointed Special Advocates, which provides legal advocates for minors; Family Planning; Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; Hi-Line Therapeutic Riding Association; Meals on Wheels; Senior Companions and the Salvation Army.
After surpassing its goal of $110,000 in 2001, which required extending the deadline by several weeks, United Way of Hill County raised its goal to $126,000 in 2002. It missed that goal by nearly $38,000.
It lowered its goal to $123,000 in 2003, and missed that by more than $30,000.
The United Way board looks at requests from agencies each year, decides what it thinks United Way can fund of those requests and sets its total goal based on those estimates.
If the fund drive misses the goal, the board cuts what it will provide to each agency.
Keto said she hopes people will respond and come through with pledges and donations in the last part of the drive.
"All we are asking is that Hill County residents consider the United Way of Hill County and the huge amount of our neighbors that are helped by these agencies and try to spare even a couple of dollars," she said.