Mesa United Way is kicking off its annual campaign this week with a call for residents to unite in support of one another's needs. A Friday lunch is planned at Mesa's Hilton Hotel to start this year's efforts.
The group last year raised about $6 million total, and $2.6 million of that was not designated toward a specific agency, said director Carol McCormack. Mesa United Way this year is looking to raise $2.9 million in funds not pinpointed for a specific fund, so they can be used for underserved agencies or the especially needy.
"We raise a lot of money in designated dollars," said McCormack. "We have a group of about 90 volunteers who look at the agencies' budgets and review audits. Based on their evaluation of the agencies, we determine how much each program with an agency gets."
The groups helped include children's issues, shelters and food banks, the elderly and special or disability needs.
Mesa United Way was started in 1921 as the Welfare League.
Special needs they plan to focus their funding efforts on this year include agencies that are hit hard by the soaring prices for gasoline, such as mobile meals at senior centers, said McCormack. Another area with growing financial needs is programs in which volunteers provide transportation to work for disabled residents who can't take public transportation.
This year's theme encourages people to bridge differences and features Mesa city officials and area residents wearing shirts stating, "Live United."
"The whole idea is about living together as a community," McCormack said. "A lot of people when they think of charity, the first thing that comes to mind is these are people they may not pass by every day.
"And they may not think about the fact that the child who sits next to your child in school may be hungry," she said. "Or the child who sits next to your child may actually be homeless. The purpose is to make sure that those people who live right beside us and who we walk by every day are taken care of by us."
Those who wish to attend the lunch should R.S.V.P. at (480) 834-2102 or www.mesaunitedway.org.