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Washington County United Way celebrates 50 years

November 06, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY ? Today marks a half-century of supporting and funding community programs for a Washington County organization that launched its first fundraising campaign on Nov. 7, 1957.

United Way of Washington County, which was called the United Fund of Washington County until changing its name in 1973, has raised more than $50 million in its 50-year history, said Rod Shoop, interim executive director.

"We're very proud of that accomplishment - 50 years of uninterrupted service to the citizens of our county," Shoop said.

In its first year, the United Fund raised $262,000 for 19 partner agencies throughout the county, said Jenny Fleming, the organization's community building and marketing director.

In 2006, fundraising totals passed $1.8 million, and the organization is aiming for more than $1.9 million this year.

Today, the organization has 25 partner agencies, including some, such as the Red Cross, which have been associated with United Way since its first campaign, Fleming said.

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And while United Way of Washington County has retained many aspects of its original mission, such as a focus on accountability, the organization has evolved over the years, its leaders said.

"In 2007 and beyond we're a different organization than we were 50 years ago," Shoop said.

For one thing, over the past three to five years, the organization has developed a focus on targeting specific community issues, such as teen pregnancy, homelessness and early-childhood education.

"In the past we were more reactive than proactive," Fleming said, letting grant applications dictate the issues the organization supported.

Now, the organization is working to assess the collective needs of the community and seek out the issues and people falling through the cracks, Fleming said.

"We're well past just an organization to collect money and hand that out," Shoop added. "Focusing on community initiatives is really where we're going over the next couple of years."

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