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United Way kicks off 2007 campaign

Jill Robinson from Peninsula Services presented Robert Schlesinger with an award for helping out in the community. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Jill Robinson from Peninsula Services presented Robert Schlesinger with an award for helping out in the community.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

The United Way of Kitsap County kicked off its 2007 fundraising campaign on Monday with an event at the Silverdale Beach Hotel, soliciting donations while stressing the importance of the organization to the community.

“Community impact is about mobilizing the community and resources to create change,” said United Way Director David Foote. “We accomplish this by supporting programs and initiatives that help children start school ready to learn and that teach them skills they need to succeed in life.”

“We believe that all residents of Kitsap County should have adequate food, clothing and shelter, and should have a safe place to live,” he said. “And we believe the elderly and individuals who have a disability should live as independently as possible.”

The fundraising effort, which includes a team of “loaned executives” approaching local businesses, will begin immediately.

The fund drive will end in December.

Foote said there was no formal fundraising goal, only to exceed last years total of $1.8 million.

The event’s guest speaker was former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, who said that the United Way has greatly improved conditions in his lifetime.

“The United Way has taken on some of the toughest challenges,” Munro said. “When it comes to hunger, healthcare and handicapped kids, the ‘good old days’ weren’t so hot. For many of you it is hard to imagine how things once were. There were years when polio ravaged the neighborhoods.”

“I’m not sure that I could easily explain what an iron lung is, but my mother died in one at the old Harrison Hospital,” he said. “I remember watching TV in 1955, when they said they were going to go live for an address from Dr. Jonas Salk. I still remember with great clarity that when Dr. Salk started talking about a cure for polio, my mother burst into tears.”

Munro said the United Way and its affiliates have changed the social services landscape.

“The people in this room are the backbone of health and human services for the entire county,” he said. “You provide the safety net for a lot of people. I cannot thank you enough for this. It makes a difference to all of us, whether we are born here, come here to retire or come back to visit. We need a safe and caring community, where everyone has adequate food, clothing and shelter. Then, there is the idea of affordable housing, which no one wants to talk about.”

“I grew up in a house the size of this room,” he said of the 3,200 square foot banquet room where the event was held. “There is no reason a house this size should cost a million dollars.”

Foote said 160 people attended this year’s kickoff, 40 more than in 2006.

During the event, the United Way recognized four local agencies for their contributions to the community.

• Navy Region Northwest was cited for its support of a a contract with Peninsula Services that provides disabled adults with livable-wage jobs. The contract with Peninsula Services employ more than 100 people at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bangor and Keyport.

• Town and Country Markets, Inc., for their support of local area food banks, the weekly donation of 1,500 pounds of produce to the Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition.

• The Bremerton Police Department for its involvement in the United Way Kids and Cops program, where police officers carry vouchers for children in immediate need. After beginning in Bremerton the program is now county-wide.

• The Kitsap County Dental Society for its members’ participation in the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) program. More than 20 dentists from the society have received specialized training through the University of Washington School of Pediatric Dentistry.

Health District Director Dr. Scott Lindquist, who presented the award, said the local medical community could learn from this program.

Foote concluded the program by quoting lyrics from singer Lee Ann Womack.

“The world is full of ‘what ifs’ for many individuals and families right here in Kitsap County,” he said. “What if nobody lends a hand? What are the possibilities if we join together and lend a hand close to home?”

To contact the United Way, call (360) 377-8505.

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