The Mesa United Way wraps up its extended fundraising campaign on Wednesday, and it reminds me of a joke I heard some years ago:
An 80-year-old man robbed a liquor store, was caught redhanded and quickly convicted. “Thirty years,’’ said the judge.
“But, Your Honor, I’m 80 years old,’’ the old man protested. “I can’t do 30 years!’’
The judge sighed.
“Well, then,’’ the judge said dryly, “just do the best you can.’’
The Mesa United Way is taking a similar approach in its latest fundraising effort. Not long after reaching its fundraising goals for the year, the organization began a new campaign. That resulted from the May 16 election, where voters rejected a proposed property tax.
In the wake of the failed tax, the city was faced with cutting $25 million from its budget, including $300,000 to various social service programs.
“Once we realized that the city wasn’t going to fund some of the basic services, we decided to provide as much of the funding as we could,’’ Mesa United Way president Carol McCormack said. “We hoped to raise about $200,000. As of (Monday), we’ve raised a little over $100,000, but we’re still making calls.’’
Today, the board will meet to decide how to disburse that money.
“Some of the programs, we’ll fund fully. Some we won’t be able to,’’ McCormack said.
Funding priority is given to the programs that provide basic essential services, such as those providing food and shelter. Also, special services for the disabled are a high priority, as are programs that help children.
Although the fundraising efforts are focused on helping alleviate the cuts in this year’s budget, the fallout from the failed property tax proposal signals that money will be a serious issue for the city’s social service programs for years to come. In fact, McCormack said, funding for these programs has been an uphill struggle for a while.
“Over the past five years, social service programs have lost $1 million in funding,’’ she said.
Although the board meets today to disburse the funds, it’s not too late to contribute. You can visit www.mesa unitedway.org or mail a check to: Mesa United Way, 137 E. University Drive, Mesa, AZ, 85201.
With just one day left, it seems unlikely that the $200,000 goal will be met. And the long-term demand for social services presents a huge challenge.
Efforts seem tantamount to sticking a finger in the dike, but McCormack is staying positive.
“We’re going to do our very best,’’ she said. “Whatever we raise will be better than what they have now.’’
Simply put, the Mesa United Way is just doing the best it can.
How about you?