United Way raises $502,000
Organization receives most money of 30-year history
Corrie Ponikvar cannot explain it.
As of Friday, Moffat County United Way raised about $502,000, the most ever in the organization's roughly 30-year history and more than the group's $480,000 goal for 2009.
Ponikvar expects the total to go up soon, as well, when United Way collects contributions from state employees.
"All of us couldn't believe we raised that much this year," Ponikvar said. "I have no idea why (we did). I just think, in our community, we're fortunate to have jobs, and we don't want to see people go without food or health care, or children without Christmas."
Historically, the tougher the economy, the more donations United Way receives, she added.
Still, she isn't so sure the giving trend will continue.
United Way depends on local residents, and Ponikvar said donations can only come after people take care of themselves and their families.
"Our future depends on the economy and the industries in town," she said. "If our area hits a recession, then we may take a turnaround. People can only do so much."
For this year, however, United Way has funding to do more than its members expected.
Ponikvar said the funds partly will be used to give additional dollars to the about 50 community groups and government agencies it serves.
The money also may allow the group enough latitude to begin initiative-based funding, she added. At the board's April or May meeting, the group may look at doing a community needs assessment to see what local issues it could address.
"They haven't discussed how to spend the money, but, for instance, the board members talked about the health care problems - like the shortage of physicians, the number of people without insurance - and how United Way could help with that," Ponikvar said.
If the local economy tanks, communitywide concerns such as access to health care likely will get worse, she added.
"A needs assessment could help us stay ahead of the curve in that case," Ponikvar said.
United Way also is looking at other ways to refine its programs.
The board wants to become a more efficient spender so the community gets the best value for every dollar, 2009 board chair Jeanine Vallejos said.
This year, United Way plans to begin an outcome-based measurement program, meaning local groups receiving United Way funds would have to account for how they spent money.
"It holds agencies accountable and makes them state their goals and measures their successes," Vallejos said. "We'll be able to measure, dollar for dollar, how the money was spent."
It will be increasingly important for United Way to spend wisely, she added.
"United Way is more important now than it ever was because of the tough times," Vellajos said. "We're lucky to live in such a great community where it seems like people know that."
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.