These helping hands are so very needed United Way: A community, even a great one, looks after its own because governments won't.

September 21, 1998

THE NEED for the United Way of Central Maryland to exceed its $39.4 million goal this year is paramount. One reason is the acute need met by this community effort. Another is the large number of people who avail themselves of these services.

But the most basic reason is that the United Way is a measure of how Central Marylanders regard themselves. We look out for our families and each other. We care about our communities and our neighbors. If we don't, who will?

That calls upon everyone to give -- if able, if fortunate enough to have work when others do not, if blessed with discretionary spending power. Last year, 200,000 people did so, benefiting 135 carefully scrutinized health and human service programs serving some 600,000 Central Marylanders.

Overhead expenses are held to 13 percent, including the cost of raising the funds. That is low compared with most charities. United Way is also considerate to its donors. Instead of 135 phone calls at dinner time, this is a single appeal telescoped this year into a shorter campaign than ever. It will be over in the private sector in mid-November and in government workplaces by mid-December.

As a workplace solicitation, the United Way also provides the easiest way to give. A single pledge for payroll deduction is all the red tape involved.

Greater Baltimore has never been a leader in per-capita philanthropic involvement. Minneapolis, Seattle and Atlanta put us to shame. Most people working in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, whether self-employed or in small or newer medium-sized firms, are not approached.

The challenge to United Way in coming years is to catch up with the changing work force, particularly smaller employers in the outer counties.

But the challenge this year to individuals who are comfortably employed, is to remember the needs that befall everyone. With changing welfare laws, half the homeless in America are women and children. Drug use is at the core of burgeoning social and health problems in every subdivision and in every social class.

But mainly, the challenge to the fortunate is to remember that this is an endeavor of the greater community.

No common thread or experience -- save for the World Series victory eluding us again -- unites more Central Marylanders.

United Way reaches out to diverse populations and neighborhoods to reinforce the common humanity that transcends all differences with one simple, annual appeal to everyone's better nature.

Pub Date: 9/21/98

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