United Way groups face cuts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Jeff Cothran, executive director of the Selma-Dallas County United Way, has both good news and bad news near the end of this fall’s fund-raising campaign.

The good news is that he hopes, when all is said and done, there may be as much as $360,000 in collections for 16 organizations in the community for whom United Way is the lifeblood.

The bad news is that this year’s pledges for the campaign that began in mid-August and officially ends Dec. 31, were 11 percent short of the goal of $480,000. He noted that is less than last year’s pledges of $488,000 because of the general tightness in the economy and plant closings.

Last year’s pledges, in turn, were $12,000 short of last year’s goal of $500,000, which had been the attained goal for a number of years, Cothran said.

Cothran added that he thought it would be &uot;frightfully difficult&uot; to reach the $460,000 goal by year’s end, despite what he described as the Herculean efforts of this year’s 12-member campaign committee headed by Bob Myers.

Cothran said Selma and Dallas County are not alone. United Way has been hard hit this year, along with most other charities.

Of United Way’s 11 divisions, all but one has fallen short of last year’s pledges, the one exception being the Commercial Division, which increased from $14,234 to $15,400 as of Tuesday.

Cothran praised the employees of International Paper’s Riverdale Plant, the largest single contributor, for their extra effort and all the businesses that together increased pledges in a tough year economically.

He also praised the Educational Division &045; school employees, including teachers &045; for coming within a mere $17 of reaching last year’s pledges &045; $14,133 vs. $14,160 last year.

Cothran said that the board of directors of United Way was to meet this afternoon to decide how to divide the pie among the 16 member agencies. Cothran said it is a sobering duty for these civic-minded people who know how much every dollar counts for the agencies that depend on United Way. They hate having to make the cuts, he said.

Then agencies will be notified and recommendations finalized for presentation to the January 2004 meeting of the delegate assembly that must approve them.

That assembly of 32 consists of the 16 members of the board of the United Way and one representative of each of the organizations receiving funds.

Last year, according to Cothran, the $12,000 shortfall was made up out of reserves, but this year that will not be possible. The $20,000 shortfall is simply too large to make up, he said.

Allocations to the 16 agencies range from more than $80,000 to as little as $1,000, he said.

There were two fewer organizations in this year’s line-up, Cothran said &045; Vicap and RSVP &045; which have discontinued operations due to loss of other funding.

Cothran continues to hope for an upturn in the economy and the expansion of the business community in Selma and Dallas County as prelude to moving forward in coming years in the community’s capacity to fund its charities.

Selma-Dallas County United Way began in 1944 under the name &uot;Community Chest.&uot;