This year’s goal set at $165,000
By Tim Stoddard
For C. Robert Horsburgh, Jr., giving to the United Way is a natural extension of the medical calling. “It’s a great way to support the kinds of things that people on the Medical Campus are often involved in anyway,” says Horsburgh, an SPH professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and a MED professor of medicine. “There are a lot of agencies, such as Visiting Nurses and homeless shelters, providing direct medical services that are an extension of the health promotion we do. To some extent, the United Way’s efforts are also an extension of the disease treatment we practice here. It’s a natural fit for people who are committed to what the Medical Campus does.”
Horsburgh, the Medical Campus United Way campaign chair, also encourages BU employees to consider volunteering. “I point out to people that it’s not just about giving money — you can also volunteer your time.” Horsburgh should know. He has frequently volunteered for the United Way as a program evaluator. Before the United Way supports an agency, it sends a team of volunteer professionals to evaluate the organization, ensuring that it is well run and delivering the services its supposed to be delivering. “It’s very useful to the United Way,” he says, “to have volunteers with training in medicine, public health, or dentistry to carry out program evaluations.”
The United Way of Massachusetts Bay (UWMB) kicked off its annual BU campaign this week, and according to Milton Little, Jr., the organization’s president and CEO, contributions from the University community are needed more than ever this year. “Despite private and government funding,” he says, “there is still vast, unmet human need in human services in our region.”
The United Way provides financial support to more than 200 health and human service agencies in 80 eastern Massachusetts cities and towns — agencies that help hold families together, treat substance abusers, assist the elderly, and engage disabled people in meaningful, satisfying activities. The United Way is the second-largest funder of human services in Massachusetts, after state government. “An investment in United Way is an investment in the future,” says Little. “Those helped today will go on to help others tomorrow. We value our partnership with Boston University and look forward to working together to build a strong and vibrant community.”
This year the University hopes to raise $165,000. All employees received a pledge card in the mail on September 29, with an accompanying pamphlet listing 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 health and human service agency.
The most useful contributions, however, are the ones that go into the United Way’s Community Fund, according to Lois Jones, UWMB director of fundraising. Each year, UWMB volunteers thoroughly evaluate all its 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. When a family faces eviction because they can’t pay a rent increase, for example, a network of United Way agencies helps the family secure subsidized housing, adult education or job training to increase income, child care so that parents can work, and other services to help them get back on their feet.
This year the United Way is implementing a new investment strategy that targets four key areas of need: healthy child development, sustainable employment, opportunities for youth, and affordable housing. “As a result of this new strategy, contributions to this year’s campaign will have an even greater impact on the lives of individuals served by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay,” says Marvin Cook, BU’s vice president of planning, budgeting, and information and the University’s United Way manager.
Now in its 10th year, the UWMB’s Success by 6® initiative safeguards the health of children under age six so they can enter kindergarten ready to learn. The program provides at-risk kids with nutritious food and consistent medical care. As part of its healthy child development strategy, UWMB is also developing a network of community-based agencies to promote the emotional development of children. In collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, it published “Growing Up Healthy,” a guide to help parents learn more about child development, safety, and nutrition.
The Community Fund also supports after-school programs that teach children the skills they need to graduate from high school. Through the Keeping Kids on Track® initiative, for instance, United Way agencies provide tutoring, mentoring, sports activities, and other out-of-school programs to children ages 7 to 18.
The bottom line, Horsburgh says, is that “altruism has its own rewards. Doing something good for others is good for the giver as well as the recipient.”
For more information on giving to the United Way, call 617-358-UWAY, or visit www.uwmb.org.