Support United Way in tough time

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The Inter Lake reported last Sunday that the local United Way agency experienced a major shortfall in expected revenue last year, leading to serious problems for local nonprofits and even helping to end the popular Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

It was an eye-opener for a lot of readers, but the charities affiliated with United Way were already very familiar with the problem. That’s because they’d seen their funding cut off in July 2016.

As Kari Gabriel of Flathead CARE, which combats teen substance abuse, said, “We are feeling it big-time.” CARE lost approximately $10,000 in funding, leading to the loss of a part-time youth-coordinator position.

The funding shortfall came about for a couple of reasons related to workplace donations from major employers. Plum Creek had been responsible for roughly 40 percent of the revenue from that campaign, and when Weyerhaeuser took over the company, it closed local facilities that led to a loss of jobs and also eliminated a company match for employee contributions. That was a huge hit.

Whether wise or not, United Way also decided to make a change in its accounting procedure at the same time to more accurately tally donations from national companies. By waiting for the money to actually be deposited, United Way will know exactly how much funding is available for local nonprofits, but the change meant that there was a funding loss of about $70,000 for one year while the transition was completed.

United Way’s longtime executive director, Sherry Stevens, said a similar shortfall occurred in 2009 when Columbia Falls Aluminum closed its doors, and she expects the local community and employers to help the agency rebound in the coming year.

“We have a community that has been there for us, and we’ll continue to be there for it,” Stevens told reporter Katheryn Houghton.

We believe Stevens is right. Even in tough times, the Flathead Valley and Northwest Montana are filled with generous citizens who want to provide a safety net for our most needy citizens. Don’t wait to write a check to help the agency; the time is now.

And if you want to help determine how the community’s money is spent, you can still volunteer to participate in the Citizens Review. After the nonprofits present their mission and needs, a panel of community volunteers will determine how much money each agency will receive. The registration deadline to serve on a panel is Thursday, and the review will take place June 27-29.

Stevens said she hopes monthly payments to nonprofits will kick off again by the end of July, almost a year after the money stopped. Let’s hope so. We don’t want to see any other nonprofits have to close their doors. To volunteer for the Citizens Review, call 752-7266 or email info@unitedwaycares.org.

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