United Way donors can designate gifts within its systemThe...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 11, 1999

United Way donors can designate gifts within its system

The Sun's editorial "Don't forget those most in need" (June 5) missed the real point about giving through the United Way. It suggested only two options: Designate money to a charity outside the United Way system or give to the United Way's "traditional social service agencies."

United Way members represent a wide range of charities, not just the "traditional social service agencies." Its seven big affiliates are Community Health Charities (formerly Combined Health Agencies), Associated Black Charities, Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, The Associated, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

The only way to ensure that your donation to the United Way goes to one of these agencies is to find that charity's code number for that in the booklet that comes with your pledge card and write it on your pledge card.

Gifts to the United Way that are not designated for one of these affiliates do not make a significant difference to most of the affiliates.

For example, designations to Community Health Charities rose 6.9 percent in the 1998 campaign. Yet, because donations designated for charities that are not members of the United Way system went up, United Way funds to our 24 member health charities were cut $170,000.

The United Way's 1998 campaign clearly showed that people want to choose where their money goes. The Sun should let readers know that this option is available within the United Way system.

Linda Cotton Perry, Baltimore

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Community Health Charities of Maryland.

Designated gifts provide donors welcome choices ...

I was appalled to read that the United Way of Central Maryland will be reducing support of its members and affiliates ("United Way tells many to expect less," June 3). Many Central Maryland charities rely on every dollar they receive from the United Way.

But I'm also concerned about the United Way discouraging donors from designating their gifts.

Although the United Way should tell donors it doesn't support private schools and other agencies that aren't members, it should not dissuade them from choosing which programs to support.

The United Way is encouraging contributors to give to the "Community Safety Net," where the money will be distributed according to the "recommendations of volunteers who evaluate programs' services and effectiveness."

But when giving to the "Community Safety Net," a donor will receive no assurance that the agency of his or her choice will receive any money.

Most donors want to give to an organization with which they have a personal connection.

I believe it's in the community's best interest when donors are not only given the freedom to choose, but know the full spectrum of organizations they can support.

That should be the function of the United Way, not choosing for me where my charity money should go.

Dan Nicolaisen, Glen Burnie

... or do they defeat purpose of a common, public fund?

I was outraged to learn from The Sun's article "United Way tells many to expect less" that the United Way allows people to designate their gifts for agencies that are not even members of United Way.

I don't approve of designating contributions and have never done it. People should give directly to their favorite charities, not take money away from excellent and important agencies just so everybody feels better about United Way's total.

That betrays the very purpose of United Way as a common fund for and from the whole community.

Eleanor N. Lewis, Baltimore

Delivering help for area shut-ins

Thanks to Harriet G. Bank who saluted the comic strip "Curtis" in her letter "Kudos to `Curtis' and `Meals on Wheels' " (June 5). In the strip, Curtis' mother recently became a Meals on Wheels volunteer.

In Baltimore and surrounding counties, Meals on Wheels delivers two balanced meals, one hot and one cold, to about 3,000 people every day.

Our regular meals are low-salt and low-fat. Special meals are also available for people who can't eat sugar, or who don't eat pork or fish, even for people with no teeth. Kosher meals are available.

Many people think that you have to be old or poor to get Meals on Wheels, but this isn't true. Anyone who is confined to home and can't prepare meals because of illness or disability, physical or mental, may be eligible for Meals on Wheels.

Most people pay something for their meals, depending on what they can afford.

Anyone looking for a worthwhile volunteer activity would do well to consider Meals on Wheels.

It isn't home nursing or amateur social work. It's just delivering the meals, along with a friendly word or two. Volunteers usually work in pairs; one person drives and one visits. It takes about two hours, perhaps one day a week.

Betsy Toland, Baltimore

The writer has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer since 1983.

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