United Way kicks off area fundraising campaign

The theme for this year's United Way of Santa Cruz County fundraising drive is "One more donor, one more dollar, one more life changed."

UC Santa Cruz staff and faculty pride themselves on their contributions to the United Way of Santa Cruz County. Last year, in spite of the nation’s economic troubles, employees gave a healthy $60,000 to the charitable organization.

Now the latest United Way area fundraising drive is underway – and supporters hope to outdo themselves. The total campaign goal for this year is to draw from 4,000 donors and raise $1 million.

United Way’s impact on Santa Cruz County is both immediate and long-term. While providing a safety net for families in need, it works to achieve long-term changes. Partner agencies guide families toward financial stability, ensure that children will succeed at school and life, and help children and adults receive quality health care.

The theme of this year’s fundraiser is “one more donor, one more dollar, one more life changed in Santa Cruz County.”

In September, at the United Way’s campaign kick-off breakfast in Aptos, a speaker named Catharine brought home this campaign theme when she talked about the support she received from United Way’s partner organizations.

Catharine told the crowd of more than 200 people about the troubles she’d faced, and getting her life back on track. Her husband was a disabled Vietnam veteran who suffered from severe depression, which led to domestic violence in their household. The family business foundered and went into bankruptcy. Fearing for her safety, Catharine left her husband, taking her three children with her.

Catharine found work, but she told the audience that “several of the organizations supported by United Way were critical to my survival and recovery. A [Walnut Avenue] Women’s Center volunteer helped me with referrals to rebuild my life. Salvation Army gave us food and paid a month’s [Pacific Gas & Electric Company] bill.”

In addition, The Family Service Agency of the Central Coast counseled her husband, while the YMCA helped her younger daughter to attend a summer program free of charge.

“Today, two of my three children are graduates of prestigious colleges,” Catharine said. “We are all leading productive lives. I am in a healthy partnership. Life is good.” And she added that “no contribution is too small to be helpful.”

While last year’s fundraising figure was slightly smaller than the previous year’s total, it reflected an increased participation rate for UCSC employees, rising from 8.2 percent in 2008 to 8.3 percent in 2009.

“UCSC staff and faculty have a longstanding tradition of giving to the United Way of Santa Cruz County,” said Donna Murphy, UCSC’s Vice Chancellor for University Relations. Murphy is the area United Way campaign’s 2010-2011 co-chair along with Mike Jung, publisher of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  She also served as co-chair for the campaign last year. 

“Our employees have been very generous over the years,” Murphy said. “It has to do with our strong sense of community and our shared responsibility. There are people in this county who are facing economic hardships, and every dollar we give has an immediate, tangible impact.”

Murphy is also a donor. “I give to United Way because it touches virtually every person in the county, either through its safety net of programs or as a catalyst for getting things done,” she said. “The breadth of United Way’s impact in Santa Cruz County is too often unseen, but it is real and helps improve the lives of us all.”

The UCSC community includes a number of long-term donors. One longtime supporter, linguistics professor and Interim Dean of Humanities William Ladusaw, prefers to give “flexible” donations that allow the United Way respond to “constantly changing needs.”

Ladusaw has been giving to United Way for more than 20 years. “It’s the best way for me to give back to the community,” he said. “I know people who are very involved with one particular charitable organization, and that is where their service and philanthropy go. But I’m confident in the United Way’s structure. They make sure their [partner] organizations meet high stands for doing good work.”

Psychology professor Barbara Rogoff has been giving to United Way for 18 years. She is especially interested in children’s causes.  “To be part of any community, it is important to share when you can and help one another,” Rogoff said.

Every year, Rogoff tries to give at least 10 percent of her income to various charitable causes including the United Way.  “Some people tithe,” Rogoff said. “And that inspired me. I don’t belong to a church or spiritual organization, but I think those who can help should help those who can’t. That’s where my giving comes from.”

To make a donation to United Way of Santa Cruz County, go to the UCSC webpage at: unitedwaysc.org/ucsc.php to download a pledge form. Donation envelopes have been sent to campus mailboxes. Those who have signed up in a previous year for a payroll deduction do not have to make any changes; payroll deductions automatically renew for 2011.