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Building partnerships one brick at a time

In the dark economic cloud looming over the entire nation, the United Way of Kitsap County has found at least one silver lining as it is halfway to its 2009 capital campaign goal of $750,000.

"We're at the halfway mark, which is great," United Way of Kitsap County director of resource development Patricia Hennessy said Monday afternoon. "We received a $120,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."

Receiving a grant from the Gates Foundation provides the United Way of Kitsap County a boost, and $100,000 of that grant is a community challenge grant, which means the local community is being asked to raise an additional $100,000 to match the Gates' generosity, Hennessy said.

"Local businesses have been great," she said, noting that Kitsap Credit Union gave the United Way $25,000 to help with this year's capital campaign.

During these tough economic times, Hennessy said the United Way has sharpened its focus to bring non-profit organizations together through the development of a non-profit community center in downtown Bremerton.

"By bringing non-profits together, we have the opportunity to do more," she said, noting that such teamwork and collaboration is critical in meeting the needs of the community at time when the need for services from all non-profits is growing.

Currently the United Way of Kitsap County has the Cooperating Collection from the Foundation Center in New York at its downtown offices, which is a research library for non-profits, she said.

"The database has over 100,000 grant opportunities or funding opportunities for non-profits," she said, adding that the collection allows non-profits to locate find unique funding opportunities that are devoted to their particular niche in service to the community.

In addition to the Cooperating Collection, the United Way has been hosting a "Lunch and Learn" educational series for non-profits at its downtown location on the last Monday of each month, except for May.

The series is designed to provide non-profits more tools to be successful in serving the community and surviving in these uncertain economic times, she said.

The March "Lunch and Learn" topic is "Developing a case statement- telling a compelling story," which is aimed at strengthening non-profits grant and fund-raising abilities, she said.

In May, the United Way is bringing together representatives from the Gates Foundation and several other prominent grant providers from the Seattle area for the United Way of Kitsap County's Funders' Forum on May 15 at the Clearwater Casino in Suquamish.

The forum will provide an excellent opportunity for non-profits from across the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas to learn more about what it takes to be competitive for funding, she said.

While the United Way's lunch series and funders' forum are important, Hennessy said they only add to the importance of having a non-profit community center in downtown Bremerton to provide not only office space, but a place for collaborative thinking and teamwork to serve the community.

"The building isn't about bricks and mortar, it's about the partnerships we'll be able to build," she said.

For more information on how you can help the United Way of Kitsap County call (360) 377-8505 or visit its Web site, www.unitedwaykitsap.org.

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