Education, income and health were the issues at hand for more than 230 people at the United Way of Whatcom County 2012 campaign kickoff Sept. 6.
The campaign seeks to raise $2.2 million to improve graduation rates and increase access to learning opportunities, financial stability, independence for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities, and reduce child abuse and domestic violence.
Scott Corzine, United Way of Whatcom County board chair, and 2012 campaign chair Marjorie Hatter, refinery manager for Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, opened the luncheon at the Bellingham Cruise terminal, according to a press release.
"Studies show that stable and affordable housing relates directly to a child's success in education," said Greg Winter, executive director of Whatcom County Homeless Service Center. "Thanks to organizations like United Way, we are increasing the awareness and support of the importance of safe and stable housing for all."
Students who are not reading proficiently by the time they're in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, which can lead to delinquency, homelessness, underskilled employees, and strain on taxpayer dollars, according to Linda Quinn, superintendant for Ferndale School District.
"Early learning is the biggest bang for the buck" in improving education in our community, she said.
The Early Literacy Program in the Ferndale district is just one initiative that has come from United Way of Whatcom County's focus on impacting education and graduation rates in our community.
The more than 25,000 Whatcom families without health insurance means more use of the emergency room and an increased strain on tight local dollars, according to Chris Phillips, director of community affairs for Peace Health St. Joseph Medical Center.
He highlighted the increasing rates of drug use in Whatcom County and the effect "school readiness, income stability, and the health of children" will have on the community now and in the future.
"We are here today to seize an opportunity. That opportunity is to raise $2.2 million dollars. That is $11 dollars per person in Whatcom County per year," said campaign chair Marjorie Hatter. "Instead of buying a cappuccino every morning we can buy hope and build a better community for all."
Peter Theisen, president of United Way of Whatcom County, said 75 percent of the county's residents are served annually by programs that United Way funds.
"We all have a stake in the collective well-being of our community because we are all interconnected, we all benefit from a child succeeding in school, from a family achieving financial stability, and for the improved health of all Whatcom County residents," he said.
Sponsors include Banner Bank, BP Cherry Point Refinery, Matrix Service Inc., Peace Health St. Joseph Medical Center, Whatcom Educational Credit Union, Boeing Corp., CH2M Hill, Samson Rope, Sargento Foods Inc., Williams Co., Bellingham Cold Storage, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, and Puget Sound Energy.
Additional support was provided by table sponsors: Anvil Corp., Bellingham Cold Storage, North Coast Credit Union, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, PowerTek Electric, Puget Sound Energy, Sargento Foods Inc., The Unity Group, US Bank, and the Whatcom Family YMCA.
In-kind support included donations from Windows on the Bay/Hilltop Catering, Lithtex NW, and Courtyard Gardens.
For more information, go to unitedwaywhatcom.org.
TEEN HONORED FOR HEROISM
Paradise Lakes Country Club recognized staff member Russell Lebedev, an 18-year-old Mount Baker High School senior, for saving a child from drowning July 8 near the boat launch at Lake Whatcom.
According to general manager Gary Mitchell, Russell was at the lake swimming with friends when he noticed a boy about 10 years old on the far side of a log, not visible to the shore. The boy was floating face down in the water and, although the boy was close to shore, the log had concealed him from his parents, who were on the shore nearby.
Russell reacted quickly and pulled the boy out of the water. The child began to breathe on his own. The boy's father quickly gathered him up and left the area.
Gary went on to say that no one nearby recognized the heroism and it was not until much later that Russell relayed the story to his co-workers, who told club managers.
Russell was certified this year as a lifeguard for the country club and Gary said he has been an exemplary employee, taking his role seriously and maintaining a professional demeanor that makes him a true asset to the company.
Russell was recognized at a July 28 board of trustees meeting, receiving a life-saving certificate and cash gift.
Paradise Lakes is in the foothills of eastern Whatcom County. Roger Fitzpatrick is association president. Also on the board are Ron Woodland, Bill Tosh, Sandra Wade, John Struthers, Mike Dewar and Pamela Lutely.
Out and About runs Mondays in The Bellingham Herald.
JULIE SHIRLEY is the Executive Editor of The Bellingham Herald. Reach her at email@example.com or call 715-2261.