Our Views: United Way Blackhawk Region donors help strengthen our communities

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

If you’re fortunate enough to have a job in Rock County, most of you will be asked in coming days—if you haven’t been asked already—to give to the United Way Blackhawk Region.

It’s also inevitable that many of you will ask yourselves: Why should I give? What difference will my hard-earned dollars make?

Look around at your co-workers and neighbors. Chances are, one of every two has benefited from programs that received United Way dollars in 2012. The Blackhawk Region, formed by last year’s merger of the two United Way organizations that covered Rock County, serves a population of about 200,000 in Rock County and northern Winnebago County in Illinois. Steve Kinkade, Blackhawk Region executive director, says United Way partner agency programs helped almost 112,000 people last year. Forty-eight agencies in 30 communities served residents at every stage of life, from prenatal care, nutrition and health to hospice services for people in their final hours.

Maybe your neighbor kids benefited from United Way’s support of Scouting. Perhaps your co-worker was the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. Maybe delivered meals and household assistance helped your frail, elderly neighbors stay in their home.

As we watch news of flooding in Colorado, realize that the Red Cross and Salvation Army are among those first on the scene. Disasters this massive rarely strike our neck of Wisconsin, but if fire chases a family from its home, these agencies are first to help.

All these are compelling reasons, Kinkade suggests, to give to United Way.

“Another way you could look at United Way is it’s the community’s process for helping care for one another,” he said Tuesday, a day before the Blackhawk Region launched its annual fundraising campaign. “It does become circular. You invest your money to help sustain these programs, so when the need may arise that you need to look to one of these organizations for help, they are there because we’ve supported them adequately throughout the years.”

The merger created many benefits. While the United Way still maintains offices in Janesville and Beloit, consolidation helped reduce staff and thus administrative costs by about $160,000, Kinkade said. The Blackhawk Region, for example, saved money by cutting one of three local volunteer recruitment services. Now, more of every dollar you donate to the United Way goes directly to agency services. Large donors that wanted to spread their money across Rock County with just one contribution applauded the merger.

As the Blackhawk Region launched its campaign, it unveiled a new video. While supporters dance in the video, a narrator suggests, “together we can create a better tomorrow.” The video points out that the building blocks to a good life are education, income and health.

“If we all join the dance, we can accomplish more than any of us can alone,” the narrator continues. “Be a part of changing lives. Get in step with your neighbors; feel the beat of your community.”

It’s a great message. Please join the dance and give the United Way.

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