Donors respond to United Way's needs

Saturday, December 22, 2001

So many things about this year had charities holding their collective breath.

The economy took a major downturn after years of prosperity, a development that could have caused many charity donors to clutch their pocketbooks tightly and only loosen their grips for necessities.

And then the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 created so many places to give money for good deeds. Millions of dollars were collected for victims' families and those left homeless and jobless by the attacks.

So where did that leave the Area Wide United Way?

Doing very well, thanks to the community's generosity.

Undeniably, the United Way is one of the most important charities in Southeast Missouri because it is a clearinghouse for 32 agencies in Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City, Mo. And donors recognized that fact.

Last week, the organization celebrated meeting -- in fact, exceeding -- its goal for 2001.

The aim was $875,000, and the campaign raised $877,459, with more contributions expected, according to Steven C. Bjelich, campaign chairman.

It was a special celebration, one that brought home to volunteers just what they were working for.

At the victory celebration, children from the Cape Civic Center sang Christmas carols. Without the United Way, it would be unlikely those youngsters would have a nice facility to receive tutoring after school while waiting for their parents to get off work.

The director of the Safe House for Women read poems written by a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship by using Safe House services, partially funded by United Way donations.

In short, it was the opposite of the somber kickoff announcement, rescheduled and reorganized after the terrorist attacks from a festive occasion at the SEMO District Fair to a prayerful, reflective one in a park.

The party atmosphere was back. United Way volunteers gave thanks to individuals and companies for making 2001 a great year. Procter & Gamble Co. led the pack with a $225,000 donation, thanks to the generous people who work there.

More than 90 local companies had internal United Way campaigns, raising 75 percent of the funds.

No doubt area residents will continue to be generous, no matter what the future and the economy have in store.

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