Story last updated at 3:09 p.m. Thursday, October 10, 2002

United Way's annual fund-raising drive under way
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

A consistent contributor to the budgets of at least 28 agencies and nonprofits on the Kenai Peninsula, the local chapter of the United Way is once again kicking its annual fund-raising campaign into high gear.

And, according to Evy Gebhardt, executive director for the Kenai Peninsula United Way, if the response to last year's donation drive is any indication, the public's commitment to the United Way may well be picking up steam as well.

The people of the Kenai Peninsula contributed $780,000 to the United Way last year. That amount was $100,000 above the chapter's goal, which was already up more than 40 percent from previous years.

Some $50,000 of last year's total came from Homer and the other southern peninsula communities.

All this came about amid fears that the public might have been charitably tapped out by the donations they sent pouring in to the Red Cross and other agencies helping the victims of Sept. 11.

"We don't know if that was just people who, because of Sept. 11, said I want to do something to help the local community, or if that just represents long-term growth," Gebhardt said. "My gut feeling is that people realized that they have the capacity to help."

That help turned into $110,000 for the seven United Way-supported agencies in Homer -- Choices for Teens Inc., South Peninsula Women's Services, Hospice of Homer, Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, South Peninsula Mental Health, Homer Children's Services and the Homer Senior Citizens Friendship Center. That total does not include the financial help given to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy Scouts, both of which have local chapters, but are headquartered regionally in Kenai.

One example of that money hitting the ground locally is the $10,000 given to the Friendship Center, which on a typical day provides adult day-time services and activities for 10 to 18 seniors needing extra care.

That $10,000 amounts to about 4 percent of the program's budget, according to Fred Lau, administrator for Homer Senior Citizens Inc.

While that may not sound like a lot, it covers the cost of caring for one senior on an average day, Lau said.

"Every dollar we get, because we're a nonprofit, is pretty critical," Lau said. "If we eliminated that (United Way) money, that would probably eliminate one person from the program."

The current drive, which Gebhardt hopes to have wrapped up by the end of the month, will have the same fund-raising goal of $650,000 as last year's campaign.

Nationally, the United Way has more than 1,400 chapters that raise billions of dollars for charity. The Kenai Peninsula chapter started in 1986.