By Kevin Wilson
Together in principle, separate in just about everything else.
That’s how members of the Curry and Roosevelt County United Way boards might describe their current union, as the Roosevelt County board is now shifting its efforts to its annual fund-raising effort.
The Roosevelt board has a goal of raising $60,000 during the drive, which starts today and runs through Dec. 17.
“There’s a lot of need in Portales,” said Erinn Burch, the executive director for the Roosevelt County United Way. “There have been a lot of areas of quality of life that have not been improving for people. When you help somebody, you help the prosperity of the whole area.”
The goal of $60,000 is down from last year’s goal of $70,000. The charitable organization in 2003 raised $60,600, which goes to a dozen agencies around Roosevelt County — American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts, CASA/FCCS, Community Service Center, Girl Scouts, Life Saver Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, the Hartley House-Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, Meals on Wheels, Ministerial Alliance and the Roosevelt County Literacy Council.
The Curry and Roosevelt County boards have recently been conducting their meetings together, but Burch said cooperation on other matters won’t happen until fund-raising drives are over.
“By January, we hope to have one board, which will be made up of members from both counties,” Burch said. “The fund-raising will remain separate until board members would decide that things will change.
“Basically, all that’s happening this point is that the boards are meeting jointly. All decisions are made separately. All fund-raising is made separately and all donations will stay within that county (and its charities).”
The Curry County board began its fundraising at the start of the month.
The Roosevelt board hopes to do much of its fundraising through having businesses allow employees to make small deductions from each paycheck.
“We want to focus on payroll deductions,” Rusty Galloway, board president, said. “It’s easier, it’s reasonably painless. One advantage is (the donation) shows up on the employer’s W2. It will identify your contributions as a tax-deductible contribution and it’s easy on taxes. We are really focused on increased payroll deductions.”
Galloway said the idea is to raise participation. The logic is that the board would rather have $10,000 come from 1,000 people giving $10 than 100 people donating $100.
“The hope is we will raise more,” Galloway said, “but even if we just have an increase in participation, that will tell us that more people have been made aware of the severe needs in the community.”
It’s an effort that Greg Hobbs is aiming for at Eastern New Mexico University. The second-year board member is a computer information systems teacher at the university, and he has the task of raising awareness at the college.
Hobbs said he is working with ENMU President Steven Gamble on 100 percent participation of university employees through paycheck deductions.
“It’s low maintenance for everyone involved,” Hobbs said. “They can have a significantly small amount taken out of their paycheck, make a significant contribution to the United Way (in total) and not feel a thing. We encourage anybody who wants to give more, of course.”
The board is adding an incentive for those that choose paycheck deductions as well. A $500 Wal-Mart gift certificate will be awarded to a contributor who uses the method. Hobbs said each dollar contributed through paycheck deduction counts as one entry in a drawing for the certificate.
Burch said a complete merger of the two agencies is likely years down the road, but she envisions an organization will be more beneficial to both Curry and Roosevelt County in the end.
“It’s about raising the professionalism of the campaigns and reducing the duplication of efforts,” said Burch, adding that the two currently fund eight of the same organizations.
“The big benefit we see is to the community and to the agencies we serve,” Burch added. “We really think a combined effort will raise more money That is the bottom line. If we didn’t think it would raise more money, we wouldn’t do it.”