Two plays by Federico Garcia Lorca - Blood Wedding at the BU Theatre Studio 210 through October 13, and Yerma at SFA's Studio 104 through October 14

Vol. V No. 9   ·   12 October 2001 


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BU steps up to the collection platewith $180,000 United Way goal

By Hope Green

While many Americans are braced for leaner times ahead, some can't tighten their belts another notch. Even before the current economic downturn, studies estimated that more than 10,000 Massachusetts families are homeless and more than 60,000 children go to bed hungry each night.

Yet these figures don't begin to account for all the people who benefit from contributions to the United Way of Massachusetts Bay. The organization provides financial support to more than 200 health and human services agencies in 80 eastern Massachusetts cities and towns -- agencies that help hold families together, assist the elderly, treat substance abusers, and engage disabled people in meaningful, satisfying activities. United Way is the second-largest funder of human services in Massachusetts, after the state government.

This year the United Way of Massachusetts Bay has set a fundraising target of $56 million. On October 4 the organization kicked off its annual BU campaign, the largest the University undertakes for charity, with the goal of raising $180,000 from faculty and staff by November 16.
"The United Way needs our help now more than ever," says Marvin Cook, BU vice president of planning, budgeting, and information and the University's United Way campaign manager.

All employees received a pledge card in the mail last week. An accompanying pamphlet lists the agencies and programs for which donors can earmark their contributions. Through the drive an employee can also give to a group that is not affiliated with the United Way, as long as it is a 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization, but is not a school, hospital, or place of worship.

The most useful contributions, however, are the ones that go into the United Way's Community Fund, according Carmen Fields (COM'73), United Way senior director of communications. Each year, United Way volunteers thoroughly evaluate all the affiliated charities to decide how much money each one should receive, she says, and a lot of this aid is drawn from the pooled fund.

BU employees who contribute $75 or more ($1.45 a week) will be eligible to win incentive prizes, which will be raffled off at drawings every Friday from October 19 through November 16 and at the University holiday party on December 20. The prizes include a Palm Pilot 3C, Beanpot Tournament tickets, a $200 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, a dinner cruise for two aboard the Spirit of Boston, Boston Pops tickets, and a travel package for two to any location in the United States.

"The odds of winning one of these prizes," says Cook, "are a lot better than the odds of winning the state lottery."

According to recent news reports, the stock market dip on top of the devastation caused by the terrorist attacks has strained private philanthropies and corporate-giving programs. That makes fundraising a tougher job for agencies not solely dedicated to helping attack victims' families. But the United Way is confident it can weather the difficult times, Fields says. The new chapter-wide campaign target of $56 million is $3 million higher than last year's.

"We're accustomed to operating in a very competitive philanthropic atmosphere," she says. "There are very large, deserving nonprofit institutions we compete with for dollars on a daily basis. That's not to say recent events won't have any impact, but fortunately people have been generous, and we have every reason to hope they will continue to be generous."

No doubt the economic slump will set off ripple effects, Fields says. Laid-off workers will turn increasingly to United Way charities for job counseling, for instance, and families who can no longer afford their apartments will seek help finding food and shelter.

One-third of all Bay State residents rely on a United Way agency at some point in their lifetime, Fields adds, "and that statistic may very well increase."
One agency that expects to see more clients than before is the Ellis Memorial and Eldredge House on Berkeley Street. Established in 1885 as a settlement house for immigrants, it is now open to all community residents in need, offering child care, activities for teenagers, services for the frail elderly and handicapped, and support for foster families who take in abused and neglected children.

Leo Delaney, the agency's executive director, says he receives $160,000 of his $2.2 million budget from the United Way. Last year alone, Ellis Memorial spent $161,000 on child care scholarships. Delaney knows many working parents who cannot afford quality day care yet earn too much to qualify for state subsidies.

"What happens is those families seek alternative care or underground child-care centers that are not licensed, not safe, and not high quality," he says. "Without United Way investment dollars, these families would not have quality care and would fall between the cracks."

Fields reminds contributors that the United Way supplies more than financial assistance to charities; it also provides them with technical support, staff training, and help with fiscal management. The United Way keeps in close touch with civic, business, and political leaders to determine the community's greatest areas of need.

"The United Way is more than a fundraiser," Fields says. "It's a community problem-solver."

For more information on giving to the United Way, call 617-358-UWAY


12 October 2001
Boston University
Office of University Relations