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United Way hopes for brighter days in 2003

United Way of Garfield County heads into 2003 hoping for at least three things it hasn’t had for a while: a “working” board, a full-time director, and an office.

“I’m a one-person show,” said Leslie Robinson, United Way of Garfield County’s part-time director. “If I were full time, I could put more of an effort into fund-raising.”

Karen Gruner is one of only two active members remaining on what was once a nine-member board.



“We are definitely looking for people who want to be a member of a working board,” said Gruner, who joined the board a year ago. “Members can be as involved as they want to be. … We realize people are really busy.”

The board appointed Robinson as part-time director last August, and the surprises came pretty quickly. “I was given my offices in boxes,” said Robinson, a longtime Rifle resident. “I’m up to my eyeballs in boxes. I have a small home office, and that’s where I set up.”



Robinson gave her board a plan for getting United Way back onto a sure footing for 2003, so it will be in better financial shape to provide grants to 17 nonprofit agencies that include LIFT-UP, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Advocate Safehouse Project.

High on Robinson’s list was board recruitment. “It’s good to have a team to work with,” Robinson said. “That way we can reach out for more special events.”

Gruner said one of the board’s most important duties is interviewing United Way agencies and fielding their funding requests each February. She said the board is scheduled to meet each month, and meeting dates are flexible.

Robinson said fund-raising is another high priority. Typically, United Way groups around the United States conduct their annual fund-raising drives from August through November. Robinson said United Way of Garfield County will continue its 2002 fund-raising drive into 2003, and the goal is $125,000. Robinson said United Way met its funding obligations for 2002, and has pledged $80,000 to its 17 agencies for 2003.

United Way relies on payroll deductions, and employer/ employee partnerships, for its fund-raising. Holy Cross Energy, based in Glenwood Springs, is a longtime United Way supporter. “United Way fulfills a good function,” said Holy Cross spokesperson Bob Gardner. For 2002, Holy Cross and its employees contributed $3,160 to United Way.

Williams Production, a multi-national company that operates 720 natural gas wells and two production plants in Garfield County, is another United Way of Garfield County supporter. The company and its employees will present United Way with a $3,700 check on Jan. 8.

“United Way is definitely a worthwhile effort,” said district manager Steve Soychak. “More so now than ever.”

United Way of Garfield County is also working to raise enough money to fund a full-time director position, and to open an office, next year. Robinson said United Way had an office in Rifle provided by Garfield County, but was asked to leave when a county department expanded.

Robinson, who also works part time at Copy Copy, said if she were a full-time director, she would have more time for fund-raising, and could also focus her attention on other United Way business. “Now, I have to take off one hat and put on another. … Sometimes I ask, `Which one am I supposed to be doing here?'”

United Way of Garfield County was founded in 1982, and Robinson was the group’s first secretary during the ensuing oil shale bust days.

Back then, Garfield County had the only United Way group between Denver and Grand Junction. “We had a larger fund-raising area in those days,” Robinson said.

Since the 1980s, Eagle County and Moffat/Rio Blanco County United Ways were formed, plus Pitkin County’s Neighbor to Neighbor program, which also funds nonprofit groups. Those agencies started cutting into United Way of Garfield County’s fund-raising efforts.

Robinson said most of the money raised for United Way of Garfield County stays in the area. She said the local United Way pays the national office $200 per year, plus 1 percent of its proceeds over $100,000.

Robinson is confident United Way of Garfield County can return to its 1980s fund-raising levels. “If Mesa County can raise $1 million, surely we can raise half that much,” she said.

She said many individuals and families are being affected by local and state budgetary belt tightening.

“That’s all the more reason United Way needs to be out there, raising money for the community,” Robinson said.

For more information, call United Way of Garfield County at 625-8189. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to United Way of Garfield County, Box 1406, Rifle, CO 81650.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

lburton@postindependent.com


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