BELLINGHAM - United Way of Whatcom County officials have decided where they will spend most of the money raised during last year's campaign. In some cases, the agency's funds will help keep programs running that were eliminated by the state.
A little more than half of the record-breaking $2,116,283 raised in the 2011 campaign has been committed to 30 agencies, with more funding decisions to come. The campaign ended Saturday, June 30.
"They really are the best nonprofits in Whatcom County," United Way President Peter Theisen said. "They've got ... a proven track record in delivering services."
Evergreen AIDS Foundation has been a regular United Way partner, but this year the granting agency is supporting a different Evergreen program: free HIV testing and outreach to people at higher risk of getting the disease.
The $9,250 United Way grant is one third of the total amount being raised for the program, which despite continued support is shrinking by two thirds. The state had paid for the program until that funding was cut off last month.
Evergreen prevention and outreach coordinator Brian Spencer said he thought of the United Way's support more as a smart investment than a response to state cuts.
"We believe HIV prevention services are still necessary," Spencer said. "Finding people earlier in their disease ... saves the taxpayers many times over" by reducing hospital visits.
Theisen said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington has become stronger over the past year or two - part of the reason that agency received $54,195 from United Way.
Colleen Haggerty, the agency's program director, gave much of the credit for Big Brother Big Sister's turnaround to CEO Bliss Goldstein, who came to the organization a year and a half ago. Under Goldstein's leadership, the agency has become better at attracting donations, holding fundraisers and applying for those grants that are still available.
"The United Way is looking for financial stability," Haggerty said. "Instead of counting on federal grants, which have dried up, (Goldstein) just came in and planted the seed for these multilevel funding streams, and they're all coming to fruition."
This year and in future campaigns, the United Way is refocusing its emphasis, in keeping with changes at the national level. The United Way's mission now is to help in three areas: health, education and income. Traditional partner agencies such as the Opportunity Council, the Interfaith Health Center and the Whatcom Literacy Council are already a good fit.
The new focus, however, could change the list of United Way partners, Theisen said.
"We're not there yet, but that's something we're looking at," he said. Some agencies have already aligned their grant requests with United Way's redefined goals.
So far, United Way has decided where to direct more than $1.16 million in donations from the 2011 campaign. Another $342,000 was given to programs specified by the donors. More of the campaign money will be awarded later this year.
The 2012 campaign, to fund programs in 2013 kicks off Sept. 6.
Reach Ralph Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2266.
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