Local charity starts fund-raising year

Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

Eastern New Mexico has been an area of uncertainty with the future of Cannon Air Force Base and an area compelled to give to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. A local charity wants residents to remember there are other uncertainties in the area and more local people with needs.

The United Way of Eastern New Mexico is starting off its 2005 fund-raising efforts, with a goal of $70,000 for Roosevelt County.

The charitable organization last year merged the Curry and Roosevelt county branches to make fund-raising efforts more efficient, and created the United Way of Eastern New Mexico. Its goal — $70,000 for Roosevelt County and $412,005 for Curry County — is a total of $482,005.

The organization had its kickoff last week with a food fiesta, where people were encouraged to visit 20 area restaurants that supported the United Way.

The organization is currently dedicating time that would normally be used for fund-raising efforts to the weekend’s High Plains Yard Sale, set for Saturday at the Curry County Fairgrounds.

“We’ve been working on that heavily,” said Erinn Burch, the organization’s executive director. “We’re trying to keep everyone moving in the same direction as far as Katina’s concerned, but reminding everybody that our local organizations still need support.”

Burch said much of this year’s effort is an attempt to connect with companies that do workplace campaigns. Burch said the United Way is fortunate in that regard because they can offer payroll deduction. A person paid every two weeks could give $10 a paycheck and have the same impact as somebody stopping by the United Way office and writing a $260 check.

“Because of that, we’re able to reach people who don’t want to write a big check today, but they can give a little bit over time and it adds up,” Burch said. “Everybody doing a little bit at a time in a huge company can make a huge difference together, instead of one person giving a big gift.”

It’s a point echoed by first-year board member Don Thomas of Portales.

“I think United Way is really successful because it’s a bunch of people getting together,” Thomas said. “We can do so much more good. My little amount can’t do much, but my little amount and your little amount and their little amount can do a lot. It’s our dollars helping our neighbors.”

Last year’s fund-raising in Portales ended up at $50,000, about $10,000 short of last year’s goal.

There is no set date for the fund-raising drive to finish, according to campaign chair Dianna Thompson.

“For the current campaign, we’d like to wrap things up before the holidays, (but) there’s not a set end date,” Thompson said, “If people want to donate, we’ll take money any time of the year.”

Before hurricanes struck in Louisiana and Texas, most in eastern New Mexico were primarily concerned with the area’s future after Cannon Air Force Base was put in enclave status by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Burch said it is incidents like those that make giving to the United Way more important.

“The uncertainty (of Cannon’s future) really adds a new challenge for people,” Burch said. “The future isn’t as clear as maybe it was in the past. You have to remind people if their future looks uncertain, imagine the people who are really vulnerable.”

Board members come from many different areas in the community. Some have been members for years, while others are first-time board members like Kevin Bond. Bond, president at Wells Fargo Bank in Portales, said he enjoys being a board member after being just a donor in previous years.

“It’s an opportunity to get into the community and bring some awareness to what the United Way is all about,” Bond said. “I enjoy the involvement with the community for a cause that’s worthwhile — an organization that I believe truly helps with community.”

Board members will spend time over the next few months helping companies with workplace campaign.