Schuster: Executives bring dedication, experience to United Way campaign - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Schuster: Executives bring dedication, experience to United Way campaign

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Bob Schuster is a retired journalist and volunteer publicist for Mesa United Way.

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 3:41 pm | Updated: 3:45 pm, Tue Sep 18, 2012.

Keona Thurman knows how hard it is for some Mesa residents to pay their bills during these tough economic times. As a resource counselor for Salt River Project, she’s helped put customers struggling to pay their electric bills in touch with agencies that provide temporary utility assistance.

So when Mesa United Way was looking for people interested in participating in its Loaned Executives program to assist with the 2012-13 Pledge Campaign, Thurman stepped forward.

“I love helping people through my work at SRP,” Thurman said. “When you’re passionate about the community, it just flows. I’m familiar with the agencies that are funded by Mesa United Way that help our customers who can’t pay their bills because of a job loss or some other challenge. I know the good work they do, so I’m glad to help the campaign meet its funding goal.”

As a Mesa United Way Loaned Executive, Thurman visits businesses that have workplace campaigns that encourage employees to contribute through payroll deductions or one-time or periodic gifts. She explains to prospective participants the variety of programs funded by Mesa United Way that benefit families in need, as well as youth and the elderly.

Ken Harper, who retired from the Air Force in January 2001 and worked as a program support analyst for the Air Force Research Lab in Mesa for 11 years, also jumped at the chance to help with the campaign as a volunteer executive. The volunteer spirit runs in his family, Harper said, so after researching several options he settled on Mesa United Way.

“Every time I visit one of our partner agencies, I come away saying, ‘Wow!’” Harper said. “Sunshine Acres (Children’s Home) is just amazing, all the good work they do with those kids.

“The East Valley Men’s Center reminds me of the military. Those guys don’t just sit around; it’s structured. They learn skills so they can get jobs. I enjoy spreading the word about these great organizations, which really need our support in order to continue doing the good work that they do.”

Thurman and Harper are among one part-time and three full-time loaned executives who work with Mesa United Way Resource Development Director Linda Haskell in setting up workplace campaigns throughout the community.

“We love our loaned executives,” Haskell said. “They bring such enthusiasm and passion, plus lots of experience. They really know how to inspire the employee campaign leaders when they make their presentations. They truly are the heart and soul of a successful workplace pledge campaign.”

The goal of the 2012-13 Mesa United Way Pledge Campaign, which began July 1, is $2,825,000.

For information on organizing a workplace campaign, contact Haskell at or 480-834-2108.

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