CHARLESTON, W.Va. — United Way of Central West Virginia needs help, and it needs it soon.

Just a few weeks out from the conclusion of its annual fundraising effort, the United Way is $300,000 below its goal.

United Way of Central West Virginia had hoped to raise $1.9 million by March 31 to support its partner agencies and their work for state residents in need. Right now, United Way is at $1.6 million.

“We need 3,000 people or businesses to come up with a hundred bucks,” said John Ballengee, president of United Way of Central West Virginia.

United Way’s West Virginia fundraising usually starts in August and winds down after the first quarter of the year.

Last year, the gap at this time was about half what it is now. Ballengee said the organization’s board decided to push on through the rest of the fiscal year without reducing its support for its partner agencies.

“Now we’re talking about a deficit substantially higher than that,” he said. “This is not a good time to be below goal at this point of the year.”

West Virginia’s economic uncertainty is suppressing donations, Ballengee suggested.

“It’s an obvious situation with coal and even natural gas,” he said, adding that businesses like law firms associated with the energy industry have felt less able to commit to donating.

“You can go on and on about the concern people have economically.”

But at the same time potential donors are feeling vulnerable, needs are growing, said Guy Johnston, a United Way board member who is retail sales manager for City National Bank.

“The problem is, times when the economy is going down, needs are going up,” Johnston said.

But, Johnston said, donors should feel confident that their money will be used efficiently, carefully and thoughtfully.

“I can’t speak highly enough about the rigor of the process,” Johnston said. “We feel like stewards of people’s money.”

He added, “I sleep very well at night, knowing my dollar is being put to the best use.”

United Way of Central West Virginia supports charitable agencies in Kanawha, Putnam, Clay, Boone and Logan counties.

Ballengee said that when United Way puts out its calls for more support, some people suggest the agency should be more efficient or trim its overhead. He said United Way has taken steps like those, including cutting salaries like  his.

“Our expenses are below projection at the start of the fiscal year,” he said.

Ballengee said United Way’s support services are most beneficial to people who are experiencing unexpected upheaval in their lives.

United Way of Central West Virginia asks its partner agencies to specifically track the number of people helped by its donated dollars. The most recent number is 60,000 people a year, Ballengee said.

That help comes from 26 agencies funded this year by United Way of Central West Virginia. They include the Alzheimers Association, the American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries of Kanawha Valley, Kanawha HospiceCare, The Salvation Army and more.

One of the partner agencies is Children’s Therapy Clinic, which provides physical, occupational, speech, and music therapies and an autism socialization program to improve functional abilities of children with a variety of special needs.

Children’s Therapy Clinic director Valicia Leary said the organization tries to keep its overhead down so donated dollars may be used to directly help children and their families.

“Everything goes into therapy,” Leary said.

She said funding received from the United Way is crucial to filling Children’s Therapy Clinic’s budget for the year.

“Without that funding, we would not be able to provide what we are currently. We’re not able to raise it all ourselves. It’s a benefit for us for them to help us raise it.

“If we had a drop in funding that we couldn’t make up, which quite honestly would be difficult to do, we might have to cut current services with our children, we might have to cut what we’re providing or we might not be able to extend services to current clients.”

People who want to donate may call 304-340-3500 or go online to www.UnitedWayCWV.org 

Ballengee urged people to donate “so agencies like Children’s Therapy Clinic won’t have to reduce services or turn clients away.”

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