After last year's pledge drive fell short of their goal, Mesa United Way officials are cautiously optimistic that the current campaign will be successful.
"We're up about $9,000 over where we were at the same time last year, so we're hopeful," said Linda Haskell, resource development director for Mesa United Way. "Several of our workplace campaigns have gotten off to a great start, but others are struggling. A lot of people are still having trouble just getting by."
The 2012-13 Community Chest campaign, which began July 1, stands at $372,000 or about 13 percent of the $2,825,000 goal, which is the same as last year's target. The Community Chest helps fund 38 programs administered by 23 community agencies that assist people in need.
"The needs in the community are greater than ever," Haskell said, "but fortunately more people who have jobs are stepping up and saying, 'This is where we live, we have jobs, let's help out.'" For example, the City of Mesa's workplace campaign has produced a 15 percent higher pledge total than last year, she said, noting that campaign leaders "have worked really hard to make sure everyone who works for the city knows what a big difference they can make."
The Nov. 10 Leisure World Charity Golf Tournament also brought in a record $10,000 for Mesa United Way, with many of the participants coming from other parts of the Valley. "People hear about a charitable event and they want to help because they know so many others are still hurting," Haskell said.
Word is also spreading among people on tight budgets that they can still give to Mesa United Way through the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit, and then subtract the donation from their itemized state tax return, said Dan Wollam, Mesa United Way's president and CEO. "It sounds too good to be true, so a lot of people were skeptical at first," said Wollam. "But more people are realizing that they can give up to $200 — $400 for a couple filing jointly — and they get it back at tax time. It's really a no-brainer."
Haskell invites anyone interested in organizing a workplace campaign to contact her at Linda.Haskell@MesaUnitedWay.org or (480) 834-2108.
To donate online, visit www.MesaUnitedWay.org and click on the DONATE button. You can choose from among several donation options, including the Charitable Tax Credit.
Bob Schuster is a retired Arizona journalist and volunteer publicist for Mesa United Way.