Time to give back

Government economists may say the recession ended last June, but anyone who has been paying attention knows times are still very tough for many people. If you are able to help others in your community struggling with poverty, addiction, domestic violence, disabilities or other hardships, United Way of Jackson County is one of the best ways to put your dollars to work.

One of the sure signs of fall is the annual United Way campaign, which kicked off this year on Sept. 10 and continues through Nov 18. The umbrella agency is already at 22 percent of its goal of $875,000, but that leaves plenty of room for your contribution.

The money United Way collects funds 47 separate programs run by 36 member agencies. The programs run the gamut, in Director Dee Anne Everson's words, "from prenatal care to bereavement counseling."

But beyond direct support for services to people in need, United Way is branching out. Three years ago, the agency began moving toward spending half of its resources on direct services and half on supporting community change through programs such as the Southern Oregon Meth Project and Don't Turn Away, a community-based effort to address the specter of child abuse.

Both projects focus on prevention, public awareness and systemic change.

United Way offers several advantages for community members who want to help but aren't sure where to direct their donations. The agency takes its campaign into the valley's workplaces, and offers payroll deduction as a convenient way to help all year long.

Donors can specify specific member agencies they want to support, or let United Way distribute the funds. United Way is among the more efficient charitable agencies in the country, spending 19 percent on administration. That means 81 cents of every dollar contributed goes directly to helping the community.

According to charitynavigator.org, which rates charitable organizations, nine out of 10 charities nationwide spend only 65 cents of every dollar on programs.

United Way also monitors its member agencies every year, requiring audits, financial reviews or government filings, which are kept on file in the United Way office.

If your employer participates in the United Way campaign, attend a presentation and pick up a form. If your employer doesn't participate, encourage them to do so.

Learn more about how United Way works online at unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org. You can find links to the Southern Oregon Meth Project, the Child Abuse Network and Don't Turn Away, as well as other projects.

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