Pledging $10 million in good health United Way intends safer city for children

August 20, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

In its largest contribution ever to a single program, the United Way of Central Maryland announced a $10 million pledge yesterday to a project aimed at making metropolitan Baltimore a safer, healthier place for children.

Previously, the most the local United Way has given any one charity was $1 million to Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland.

The award to the Safe and Sound Campaign -- an independent offshoot of the Baltimore Community Foundation -- will focus on basic health needs of children from the prenatal stage through age 6.

The grant is separate from the United Way's annual fund-raising campaign, which last year dispersed about $38 million.

Half of the $10 million will come from the United Way's endowment and the rest will be solicited from foundations, local government and individual donors. Safe and Sound will receive the funds over five years, beginning in early 1999.

"Our Safe and Sound commitment will be part of every presentation we give," said Larry E. Walton, the local United Way president. "We want to make it successful enough to be ongoing, not a program that dies in five years."

The United Way grant builds on a $5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Prince-ton, N.J., that Safe and Sound received in November.

After using seed money from the Johnson foundation to poll city residents on their greatest concerns, Safe and Sound outlined five areas in which the group wants to improve the quality of life for young people.

These were: support for families with young children; out-of-school and after-school activities; reading skills; handgun violence, and a general category called "promises" in which adults and children will work to change their attitudes in an effort to make life more hospitable.

The first four objectives were considered the most crucial by more than 7,000 city residents voting last year at a "promise summit" at the Baltimore Arena, sponsored in part by Associated Black Charities. The United Way money will be applied to the first objective.

"The campaign is about creating a new environment to grow up safe and healthy, and to do that we have to change the hearts and minds of individuals, public and private institutions and the city as a whole," said Hathaway C. Ferebee, executive director of Safe and Sound. "Our goals are citywide and for all children, affluent or poor."

The United Way will work with Safe and Sound to measure the success of the program through such indicators as low birth weights, pre-term births, juvenile crime statistics, infant deaths, child abuse and neglect, school performance and economic status.

"What's really historic about this is the fact that the United Way has embraced a project where citizens said what their priorities were and backed it up with a huge investment," said Martha Holleman, director of policy and planning for Safe and Sound.

Holleman said Safe and Sound will not run programs, but instead will fund and organize existing groups around its goals and try to fill in any gaps in services. The group also hopes to make existing programs more accountable.

In making the announcement at a news conference yesterday, local United Way board President Ben Griswold said that more than half of the Baltimore households headed by women with children live below the poverty line.

"The Safe and Sound campaign is a movement to make children the No. 1 priority in the Baltimore area," Griswold said. "Children are our future and Safe and Sound gives children hope for a better future."

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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