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BU targets $165K in gifts for annual United Way campaign

“Helping children” the focus of 2005 drive”

Marvin Cook, the vice president of planning, budgeting, and information, is managing BU's United Way campaign.

Boston University has kicked off its 2005 United Way campaign, with University staff and faculty receiving pledge cards in their mailboxes last week, along with information about partner agencies that will benefit from their contributions.

“The focus of the 2005 campaign is children,” says BU’s United Way manager Marvin Cook, “helping children and youth to develop into independent and productive adults and surrounding kids with everything they need to grow up strong.” Cook, the University’s vice president of planning, budgeting, and information, adds that the agencies supported by the campaign need support now more than ever, as they have been adversely affected by the sluggish economy and by reductions in federal funding.

Last year the University raised 98 percent of its $165,000 goal, and the hope this year is to fully fund that amount.

Those who pledge $75 or more to the campaign (which works out to about $1.45 a week) will be eligible for incentive prizes, among them a one-semester membership to the new Fitness and Recreation Center (including one noncredit class), a $200 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, and a 20-gig iPod. The drawing for the grand prize, a travel package for two anywhere in the continental United States plus a $600 gift certificate toward ground transportation, will be held at the University’s Holiday Party in mid-December.

All funds go to the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, which invests in more than 250 agencies serving over two million people in the 64 cities and towns in the region. Partner agencies treat substance abusers, provide after-school programs for children, help people in need pay their rent, and provide adult day care for elders, among many other programs. On their pledge cards, employees can earmark their donation for a specific United Way partner agency or even select an unaffiliated 501(C)3 not-for-profit health and human services agency.

The most useful contributions, however, are the ones that go into the United Way’s Community Fund, according to Hope Moore, director of development at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay. She says that the Community Fund is the most flexible pool of money as well as the first source of funding for most partner agencies.

“We average about 15 to 20 percent of most [partner] agencies’ budgets in greater Boston,” she says. “An agency like the Boston Y, for instance, does amazing work: they have 15 branches, they touch every arm of the community from children to youth to adult daycare — they’re wonderful. They get about $900,000 from us each year, and the executive director will tell you that they could not do some of these programs without stable money from United Way.”

The health and human services agencies supported by the Community Fund also play a crucial role in disaster preparedness, says Moore, drawing a parallel to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“If something catastrophic were to happen here in our city, we would be in as dire straits as New Orleans was, and many people don’t realize that,” Moore says. “We have to keep local communities and local agencies strong because they are obviously the base of every community. . . . We’ve got a lot of people in Boston with personal levees that could break at any moment — they’re barely keeping themselves out of a tragedy. They’re living on the edge, living paycheck to paycheck.”

C. Robert Horsburgh, Jr., an SPH professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and a MED professor of medicine, is the campaign director for the Medical Campus. Horsburgh says that he personally finds it important to give back to the local community.

“Boston University Medical Center is located in an area where there are many needy people, so these people are our neighbors,” he says. “And I believe that United Way is a very good way to make a charitable donation because United Way is very careful about evaluating the organizations that it supports. So when you give to United Way organizations you know that your money is going to a group that is really doing the job and using the money wisely.”