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WSU employees have say in United Way funding

9:15:13 AM CDT - Thursday, October 07, 2004

By Melissa Lacey

While a number of WSU employees give annually to the United Way of the Plains, there are three employees who have been involved in finding out exactly where their money is going.

Martha Shawver, associate vice president for academic affairs and research, Frankie Brown, human resources assistant director, and Naomi Strong, Rhatigan Student Center human resources director, have been serving on the United Way's allocation review panels, helping make funding recommendations for the millions raised by the nonprofit.

United Way

Naomi Strong, left, visits with Raven Alexander, an administrative assistant at the Boys and Girls Club. Strong, from WSU, is a United Way allocations panelist, helping make recommendations for agency funding.

Photo by Inside WSU

After making agency visits, hearing testimonials and reviewing a program's services and budgets, panelists recommend how much funding each agency should receive. This year, 10 panels reviewed 102 programs at 36 agencies, according to the United Way.

"I wanted to have a say in how the United Way allocates money to its agencies," said Shawver, who had been serving on the board of a United Way-funded agency when she first got involved with a review panel nearly two decades ago. "It's easier to complain about things than try to change them. Sometimes it's important to get in there and get involved."

Getting involved also motivates Brown to work with United Way. Born and raised in Wichita, Brown said she believes in giving back to the city. In her 23 years at WSU, Brown has served on the United Way allocations committee for 15 years.

"I wanted to know where my money was going, that's why I got involved in the first place," said Brown.

Brown said she is particularly concerned with diversity among agency clients, and was pleasantly surprised to learn during site visits that minorities are being well-served.

"Most of the agencies are providing excellent services to the community," she said. "They're doing an outstanding job."

For Strong, the benefits of volunteering for the United Way are twofold.

"I believe in being a contributor to the community both personally and professionally," said Strong. Knowing about United Way resources "comes in handy since I work in HR. Sometimes employees have needs that spill over into the workplace that can be handled by referring them to a United Way agency."

A single parent needing child care, an employee who has a parent with Alzheimer's disease or a child with special needs all are examples of personal situations that may affect the work life, said Brown.

Wichita State employees do receive help from United Way-funded programs. In 2003, WSU employees or their families received help 1,272 times from United Way agencies, according to United Way statistics. Areas of assistance include children and families, the elderly, basic needs and programs that foster health and independence.

The United Way of the Plains, serving Sedgwick and surrounding counties in south-central Kansas, announced its goal of $16 million in early September.

Last year, 305 of WSU's 1,758 employees, or about 17 percent, pledged a total of $47,478 to the United Way, said Bill Wynne, WSU's registrar who is chairing WSU's campaign effort. While Wynne's campaign goal is simply "more than last year," he said he would be ecstatic to see 50 percent of employees involved in supporting United Way this year. The campus campaign runs through October.

"Doing it is affordable for anybody," said Wynne.

If every employee pledged one dollar per pay period, or $24 per year, last year's campaign would have raised about $35,000 more, he said.

"That's as easy as giving up one bottle of pop every two weeks," he said.

WSU employees can donate to the United Way through payroll deduction or direct gift. Employees can have a say in where their money goes: Donors may designate which programs their money should go to or they may exclude particular programs from receiving their money, Wynne said.

Contributors to this year's campaign are eligible for nearly 50 tokens of appreciation, said Wynne. Tokens include $40 cash, free lunch once a month for four months, a bowling party for 10 at the Rhatigan Student Center, and WSU merchandise.

According to these WSU employee-allocations volunteers, there are good reasons to pledge during this campaign.

"We're pretty blessed at Wichita State to have jobs and an income, and some aren't so lucky," said Shawver. "Those of us who have should give, because frankly, you never know if you're going to need help from one of those agencies."

"I've found the most rewarding times in my life are when I forget about myself and I'm helping others," echoed Strong. "It doesn't have to be a lot of money, it doesn't have to be a lot of time, but if everyone did it, my, what we could do."

For more information about giving to the United Way of the Plains, contact Bill Wynne, registrar, at 978-3672 or bill.wynne@wichita.edu.



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