ADVERTISEMENT

WHEATFIELD – The United Way of Greater Niagara has surpassed its campaign goal for this year, its president announced Thursday at a celebration breakfast that soon may become a thing of the past.

Carol G. Houwaart-Diez said the realities of raising charitable funds in a community whose dwindling corporate sector is controlled primarily outside the area means that the giving can’t always be limited to the traditional 10-week fall period.

Houwaart-Diez said that the figure announced Thursday – $1,279,786 – is incomplete and includes some projections of expected money that hasn’t been received or pledged yet. It slightly surpassed the goal of $1,275,000, but Houwaart-Diez said money is still coming in from major businesses, at least one of which hasn’t even begun its employee campaign yet.

In another case, a major business’ donations are being filtered through a corporate office in Boston and won’t arrive until January, and other returns from large businesses are incomplete.

The figure announced at the victory breakfast in the Shawnee Fire Company hall was “everything we know today plus a little projection for companies that haven’t started yet,” Houwaart-Diez said.

She told reporters that the increasing difficulty of obtaining accurate or complete numbers in time for a November announcement means the traditional event may be scrapped in the future.

Last November, the United Way announced that it had exceeded a $1.31 million goal by $2,500. But when the final audited figures came in, the amount raised was more than $1.33 million, or about $21,000 more than the announced total.

Houwaart-Diez said that most of the fundraising will continue to be concentrated in the fall, for fear that companies would put it off otherwise. “In the future, we won’t do a breakfast like this. We’ll announce what we raised in the spring at our annual meeting,” she said.

The United Way lowered its target this year after a series of meetings with major business donors revealed job cuts and other financial problems that would have made it difficult to do more. Also this year, the United Way changed its standards for funding to recipients, choosing to focus on programs that assist people in the areas of health, education and income.

As a result, 44 programs from 24 agencies will get funds, a decrease from 75 programs in the past. The recipients selected were guaranteed funding for three years. Some new agencies that hadn’t been funded before were added to the mix.

One was Consumer Credit Counseling, which has opened a new Niagara Falls office and plans to open a Lockport office in February. Tracy Diina of the agency said it’s a key part of Consumer Credit Counseling’s plan to create an “economic empowerment coalition” in Niagara County.

“Slowly and surely, the funding came in, and then there was a gap we could not fill,” Diina said in explaining why her organization turned to the United Way.

Gerald Smith, project director of the Niagara County Early Childhood Care Improvement Project at Niagara University, said his program won funding for working to improve results at 30 preschools.

“If you’ve taken a moment to fill out a pledge form, you’ve helped change a life,” said Niagara County Community College President James P. Klyczek, who stepped down after two years as drive chairman.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com