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United Way exec says organization needs right message

June 25, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- "Get rid of the thermometer."

A United Way of America executive offered that advice Thursday at the Washington County chapter's annual dinner.

Paper thermometers -- publicly placed to show how much money is raised during each community's annual campaign -- give a misleading message, said Alexander Sanchez, United Way of America's senior vice president of community impact leadership.

People come to know United Way only as a fundraising agency, rather than an organization that uses money, public support and cooperation to tackle large social issues, he said.

Instead of relying solely on money as a symbol, "wouldn't we rather have a family that's been put back together? ..." Sanchez asked. "Let's be honest about what we're trying to accomplish."

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Sanchez was the keynote speaker at the Washington County chapter's annual dinner at Fountain Head Country Club near Hagerstown.

At the event, the nonprofit organization made its yearly report to the community.

The report shows in 2009, the Washington County chapter directed:

o $133,000 to organizations in the category of "sustaining health"

o $236,000 to "self-sufficiency"

o $188,000 to "strengthen families"

o $393,000 to "nurture youth"

Also at the dinner, John Latimer IV, the 2009 board president, thanked Rod Shoop, the outgoing president, for his service.

The 2008 campaign co-chairs, Noel Williams and Tim Henry, were recognized. United Way of Washington County raised almost $1.64 million during the 2008 campaign, according to the report.

The 2009 campaign co-chairs, Gregory I. Snook and Mike Harsh, were introduced.

Addie Nardi, the chapter's resource development director, unveiled a new electronic component for this year's fundraising -- "Give 5 Now."

Through a fundraising e-mail, the chapter will encourage people to donate $5, then forward the e-mail to five other people. A Web site, www.give5wc.org, was set up to go with it.

A video clip played for the crowd said United Way money helps people get meals, health care and education.

During his speech, Sanchez said three broad categories -- education, income and health -- encapsulate United Way's efforts to better the communities it serves.

United Way needs to show "measurable results," specific examples of how the organization has helped, he said.

To someone who wondered about giving directly to specific causes, avoiding United Way's overhead expense, Sanchez said he replies, "It's United Way that brings all those things together ... People love the fact that we're about everything."

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