Help United Way help others

Many area businesses are holding off on hiring and expansion, waiting for the uncertainty to clear in the local aviation industry and broader economy. Many residents are spending cautiously, unsure of what the future holds for their jobs, income and benefits. The nation’s poverty rate has hit a 51-year high of 14.3 percent, and a record 50.7 million people lack health insurance.

And nobody knows when the gloom will lift.

But there is no doubt about one thing: Many, many south-central Kansans are going to need the help of the United Way of the Plains over the next year, which means United Way needs its donors’ help now through Nov. 19.

It will take a lot of giving to reach $15 million — an ambitious goal in the context of the downturn, though short of last year’s $15.8 million tally and $16.4 million goal.

The focus of the fall campaign, which began Thursday, should be less on the number of zeros in the goal and more on the good that every dollar can do for the 86 programs at 35 area nonprofit organizations that are funded by United Way.

“I don’t believe that the United Way has ever faced more uncertainty in a campaign than this year,” campaign chairman Paul Allen, chief executive of Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, told The Eagle editorial board.

A successful campaign will require that some loyal donors give more and that more people start giving, said Allen, relating how some companies’ early campaigns saw fewer employees but higher contribution totals.

The Eagle is proud to do its part by helping sponsor “Taking It to the Streets” from 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesday, when newspaper and other media personalities and volunteers will hawk special coupon-loaded copies of that day’s Eagle at 11 Wichita intersections. We hope to sell more than 10,000 newspapers during the morning rush hour to benefit United Way and give the campaign’s first week a boost.

Individuals whose employers don’t participate through payroll deduction can give online at the website www.unitedwayplains.org or by mailing contributions to United Way of the Plains, 245 N. Water, Wichita, KS 67202.

Then donors can rest assured that their money will be spent strategically in ways that serve the agency’s goals of helping kids realize their potential, promoting financial stability and improving health. Where the national standard for how much of nonprofits’ money should go to programs is 65 cents on the dollar, it’s 88 cents at United Way of the Plains.

Once the community steps up to help United Way in the coming weeks, agencies will keep up their vital work serving the community on the front lines of hunger, homelessness, domestic violence and so many other issues. United Way also will place volunteers where they’re needed and collect and distribute in-kind gifts, and continue linking help to people needing it through the 211 phone service. Its funding of the Laid-Off Workers Center will go on as well, connecting the jobless with more than $1 million in emergency resources this year.

“The true measure of the character of a community is its generosity,” Allen said. “I know this to be a very generous community, one that has concern for its neighbors in need.”

Here’s hoping that with that need so great right now, the community’s generosity will rise to meet it.