Dare to Care – and help your community

So you accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and shared a great photo of your dousing on Facebook and Instagram. You made a generous donation to the ALS Association to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

You know, then, how good it feels to help others. Now United Way of Pierce County has a challenge for you: Dare to Care.

Every year, United Way kicks off its workplace giving campaign with the Day of Caring, an opportunity for company teams and individuals to provide service to the community or to the nonprofit organizations that help so many. Among the projects that still need volunteers (see box) include yardwork at Associated Ministries; stocking shelves at a FISH Food Bank; and cleanup work at the Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center.

Even if you don’t take part in an official project, you can still Dare to Care. Do something that helps your community, from mowing an elderly neighbor’s yard to cleaning up trash or painting over graffiti. Post your photo on the United Way Facebook page (with hashtag #DareToCare) and dare family and friends to do the same.

If the result achieves even a tiny fraction of the ALS challenge, that’s a whole lotta good for the South Sound. And it dovetails with what United Way’s president and CEO, Dona Ponepinto, refers to as the agency’s interest in furthering “individual engagement” with community. “Everyone can do something,” she says. “We want to get people volunteering, advocating, helping their neighbors.”

Doing good in the community is United Way’s mission, with a primary focus on early childhood development and supporting families with young children. The nonprofit agency raises money through payroll deductions at work as well as from companies and individuals. It evaluates nonprofit service providers in the community and channels donations to those whose programs synch with its focus area.

Over the next three years, United Way will allocate $3.6 million toward 57 local programs, ranging from Tacoma Community House’s Read to Me and the FISH Food Bank to Community Healthcare’s uninsured dental care program. While fundraising campaigns have been less ambitious since the Great Recession – an unfortunate necessity – United Way is hoping to raise $1 million more than last year.

Pierce County businesses that don’t participate in payroll deduction programs should get on board. In many cases, their own employees have been helped by nonprofits funded through United Way.

It’s in all our best interest to see young children succeed and to help their families weather tough economic times. Giving to United Way and daring to care about our community are important ways to help reach those goals.