UCSC partners with United Way for annual campaign

When three major wildfires broke out in Santa Cruz County during a single month-long period earlier this year, the United Way was there.

The nonprofit immediately began to help displaced community members, including UCSC staff and faculty, by setting up a Fire Recovery Fund and working with member agency Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz County to establish an Adopt-a-Fire-Family project.

To continue vital services such as these and many others, Community Relations Coordinator Liz Evanovich wants to raise $75,000 from UCSC staff and faculty during the United Way's annual corporate campaign.

Informational materials on the campaign, which runs November 3-14 and features the theme "Live United," will arrive in mailboxes November 3 for the campus's 4,200 staff and faculty members.

"You can help tiny babies, hopeful children, senior citizens, and people in dire need right here in Santa Cruz County through one gift of any size to the United Way," said Donna Murphy, vice chancellor of University Relations, who sits on the United Way board. "It exemplifies being community--people helping their neighbors. It's heartwarming."

Campus campaigns from 2002 through 2008 have raised a total of $495,902 in donations.

United Way of Santa Cruz County gives money to local health and human service agency programs that help children, the elderly, the disabled, and families in crisis.

The stories of those the United Way has helped can be poignant, said Evanovich.

For example, in 2006, a woman named Patch was an exchange student from Thailand, divorced from an abusive husband she met in Santa Cruz, homeless and alone in this country with a three-year-old child. She lived in a shelter before she moved to permanent housing through the help of Families in Transition, one of the programs supported by the United Way of Santa Cruz County. She was able to get training, legal advice, counseling, and other assistance.

Now Patch is a full-time student at Cabrillo College with a goal of obtaining a bachelors degree.

In last year's campaign, UCSC raised $64,500, with a campus participation rate of 7.9 percent, or 331 donors. Participation rates have been declining over the past several years, however, Evanovich said. In 2004, the rate was 14.5 percent. Evanovich's $75,000 goal would equal a participation rate of 15 percent, she estimated.

People shouldn't think their donation is too small.

"Just $2 a month times 4,000 employees equals an amazing $96,000 a year," Evanovich said. "It's the power of many."

"It's okay to designate your gift to one or two programs that inspire you the most," said Murphy. "Yet, be confident that your money will be well used where the need is greatest if you don't designate a specific program. And now, with times so tough and uncertain, I hope people will give something--a gift of any amount--to make a world of difference to those with so little."

Staff and faculty have the opportunity to use payroll deduction to make a gift through United Way, which reduces taxable income. Donations are also accepted by check or credit card.

"It's an opportunity for employees of our campus to help our community become a better place for our families and neighbors and coworkers," Evanovich said. "As one of the county's largest employers, we want to show our support."

For information about United Way, visit its web site.