I had the pleasure of serving on the board of directors and several committees for our local United Way over the past decade. I was particularly honored in 2002 to be the campaign chair for the annual campaign as we celebrated 50 years (United Way was established here in 1952) and raised our first $1 million for essential social services.
Over the past 58 years, according to its extremely capable executive director Ken Wilhem, United Way of Deschutes County (UWDC) has raised nearly $23 million from area businesses, employees and individuals with the dollars going to help kids get a great start in life, keep youth on track for success, meet basic needs of individuals and families, and keep children and families safe from violence and abuse.
This year UWDC will deliver $985,550 to local agencies to help sustain needed services. They were able to disburse $20,000 more than last year even during these difficult economic times.
It struck us recently that this United Way does so much more than raise funds. The organization has played a leadership role in watching out for its numerous charitable groups, helping them form boards, create successful programs and ensuring that critical services are provided to those in need by diligently requiring them to meet high standards of operation. The staff and volunteers at United Way systematically identify unmet needs and vital issues, and bring together people and resources to address them.
In addition, last year United Way helped launch the Central Oregon 2-1-1 where you can make one call to connect to a wide range of social services in Central Oregon. CO 2-1-1 was developed through a partnership between United Way of Deschutes County, The Partnership to End Poverty and The Family Resource Center. This initiative is just the latest example of their common mission to bring people and resources together to solve tough local issues and build a stronger community.
United Way’s most recent program gives testimony to their sensitivity to the needs of the community. The have joined with FamilyWize to provide a prescription drug discount card at no charge. This is no small matter as the card can save families at least 30 percent on medications with no income limit, age requirement, eligibility or even registration required. The card can be used as often as needed, for any prescription, for everyone in your family. Get more information on UWDC website.
On a side note, we also celebrate the numerous business leaders and community volunteers who have helped make United Way so effective over the years — the Bob Thomas family is a perfect example as Robert W. Thomas was UWDC president in 1971 and son Robert S. Thomas was a campaign co-chair in 1976 & 1977 and president in 1978.
Thanks Ken, Bob and everyone else who make this an incredible community.