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April 2, 2002 – Despite the economic after-effects of Sept. 11, United Way of St. Thomas-St. John has met its largest-ever fund-raising goal of $650,000. A corporate pledge of $5,000 from FirstBank's executive vice president, Fernando Battle, put it over the edge.
We are "amazed, thrilled, gratified," said Thyra Hammond, executive director of the local United Way. "Our community has come through for us."
The goal was set 24 percent higher than last year in a decision taken at board meetings before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. At a board meeting the week of the disaster, it was decided that United Way would contribute $10,000 to the September 11th Fund from its reserve funds. Upon learning of this, The West Indian Co. donated beyond its intent in order to replenish the reserve fund.
Despite the disaster, United Way held its long-planned kickoff event on Sept. 29. This traditional event is an opportunity to thank donors and volunteers from the previous campaign, and to invite donors to give early, ahead of the open campaign. The agency usually tries to get pledges for 30 percent of the year's goal; this year, the largest-ever amount of kickoff donations, $234,000, was received.
The campaign then concentrated on employees in recognition of the major economic suffering of V.I. businesses at the time. United Way held more special events than usual, with Angelika Balkarran bringing in that sector over goal. It reintroduced its "Celebration of Life" lights downtown at the annual "Miracle on Main Street" event. The third annual walk/fun run and the seventh annual Emancipation Garden flea market were held. Two vacations were raffled — a combo cruise/hotel stay and a penthouse suite cruise.
The communications committee did a good job, Hammond said, getting the United Way campaign thermometer and banners visible around the island.
This year's campaign chair, Susan Laura Lugo, said corporate donations like FirstBank's have a far-reaching effect by "inspiring others to give on the corporate level, which in turn sends a clear message to employees that United Way's fund raising is supported not only in the workplace but by the workplace."
More than half of United Way's donations each year come directly from employees who donate through payroll deduction programs at their place of employment.
In announcing the goal has been met, Lugo repeated her message of appreciation delivered at United Way's annual meeting last Wednesday at the Hard Rock Café. She praised the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who "make up the heart and soul of this United Way," and in particular, the members of her campaign committee.
The committee members and their divisions were: Shirley Quetel Hendricks, Business I; Winthrop Maduro, Business II; Raymond Fournier, Major Accounts; attorney Micol Morgan and Dr. Margaret Sprauve, Professionals; Geraldine Heath, Residentials; Louis Hill, Government I; Judy George, Government II; Leona Thomas, St. John; Muriel and Wingrove Fenton and Michael Cabacungan, Membership; Angelika Balkarran, Special Events; Silvia Campbell, Education; and the United Way staff who handled the Combined Federal Campaign.
Hammond said United Way is a network of autonomous local organizations, not a large organization with branches. The local board makes all decisions concerning which agencies will receive what amount of funds. The United Way of America and United Way International both offer technical assistance upon request, something the St. Thomas-St. John United Way has taken advantage of. After Hurricane Marilyn, the local organization contacted every other United Way group asking for donations, knowing the community could not provide that year, when the need was greater than ever. Many organizations which had earlier suffered natural disasters sent donations which kept the local United Way afloat.
The local group plans to seek expert assistance, Hammond said, in the areas of grant-writing, teaching grant-writing to member agencies, and in setting up a volunteer management program.
Thanks to the "incredible generosity of the community," Hammond said, United Way is ready for another year of helping agencies which make the community a better place in which to live. "United Way has a good reputation in the community," she said, "due to the fact that potential givers hear where the money's going and how much accountability we provide."
Every campaign dollar raised by the local United Way stays on St. Thomas and St. John. This year almost $500,000 will be distributed to the member agencies in the form of allocations, technical assistance and access to an emergency fund.
Hammond hopes to build the emergency fund to $36,000. It's used in part to tide over agencies which depend to an extent on government allotments which often fail to materialize in the third and fourth quarters of the fiscal year.
The amounts approved for direct allocation to agencies in 2002 are:
American Red Cross, $45,000
Boy Scout Council, $46,000
Carabana Ensemble Theater, $4,500
Catholic Charities, $55,000
Civil Air Patrol, $12,000
Dial-A-Ride St. John, $15,000
Dial-A-Ride St. Thomas, $50,000
Downstreet People's Youth In Action, $25,000
Ebenezer Gardens, $25,000
Friends of Volunteers in Public Schools, $4,000
Girl Scout Council, $43,000
Legal Services of the V.I., $35,000
Lutheran Reformation Summer Camp, $5,000
St. Thomas Reformed Church Summer Program, $5,000.
Shaky Acres, $30,000
Victim Advocates, $20,000

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