United Way officials say Mesa has a community ethic of taking care of its own. But in the face of a spartan city budget, that ethic could prove more important this year than in the past.
Mesa United Way kicked off the 2006-07 fundraising season Thursday with the lofty goal of raising $5.25 million to support a variety of community services.
That would be a 10 percent increase from last year’s donations, when local donors and businesses dug deep in their pockets to help service organizations that suffered from the city’s budget ax.
“We’ve got to up the ante a little bit,” said Linda Paul, marketing director for Mesa United Way.
As the city’s largest philanthropic organization, United Way supports neighborhood groups, special needs and disabled children, the elderly, programs for early childhood development and local shelters that help broken families get back on their feet.
Community shelters are more reliant than ever on local charities, say Mesa United Way organizers. When city leaders passed a budget this summer, public safety was at the top of the priority list. Human services weren’t.
“Now, keeping up with the need is just that much harder,” Paul said.
On Thursday, hundreds of business people, educators, city leaders and residents turned out at the Hilton Phoenix East Mesa hotel for the Mesa United Way lunch.
The event was a sort of pep rally for fundraising. Organizers also reflected on the successes of the past year.
A Mississippi town ravaged by Hurricane Katrina was aided by Mesa donors. And some of the organization’s achievements were much closer to home.
Dorothy Corey, for example, was recognized for her work as director of the United Waysupported A & A Cottages, which helps teenage girls recovering from abuse and an unstable family life. Corey also adopted a foster child.
Carol McCormack, Mesa United Way’s president, pointed out the pressing needs of children who grow up in foster care. After they turn 18, up to 80 percent end up in jail or on federal assistance.
“We know that the outcome for kids that never really have homes is low,” she said.
In the coming weeks, volunteers who work in area businesses will be prompting coworkers to become donors. Those who have pledged will hopefully give a little more this year, said Lee Huff, director of major gifts.
“If they’re doing $30 a month, we’re looking for three more dollars,” Huff said. “It will go a long way.”
The Valley of the Sun United Way wants to raise $50.5 million in its 2006-07 fundraiser.
The group works with more than 100 local nonprofits that provide early childhood learning, emergency shelter and direct health care services.
To donate, visit www.vsuw.org, or call (602) 631-4824.
To learn more about Mesa United Way, visit www.mesaunitedway.org or call call Kris Trojan at (480) 834-2108.