To The Point for the week of 10/26/06


THE FIGURE WAS $553,000. That’s what United Fund of Switzerland County president Fred Stave said at the group’s annual meeting on Saturday morning at the Florence firehouse.

The United Fund is about to begin its sixth fundraising campaign; and after five years of giving out money to help Switzerland County causes or help Switzerland County people; Fred Stave said that the group had awarded $553,000.

That’s more than $110,000 per year for each of the five years that the group’s been handing out funds, and there promises to be even more.

I’m no longer a member of the board of directors, but I remember a time when a group of volunteers sat in a room and considered ways to take local funds and directly help local causes.

No paid staff. Very little overhead. Just collect money, take applications, and hand it out.

No matches, just the desire of groups who wanted to help make life better for the people who live in Switzerland County.

It was a crazy idea at the time. I remember thinking that if we could get one thousand people to give us one dollar a week in payroll deduction, at the end of the year we would have $56,000 to distribute.

What we didn’t count on, quite frankly, was a uneasy feeling about the “United Way” by people who worked in cities and towns that already had programs. Many had gotten their “arms twisted” in order to make a company quota on percentage of donors; and that had left a bad taste it their mouths.

I can’t blame them.

Belterra has been a big supporter of the United Fund here, distributing their pledge cards in their new employee packets. The Switzerland County School Corporation also allows staff members to have payroll deduction; as does Hilltop Basic Resources.

But the foundation of the United Fund here is based on all local people taking a little bit and – when put together – everyone’s little bit becomes a big bunch of something.

In fact, it’s now called a “United Fund” instead of a “United Way” because in order to use the name, funds had to be sent to the national organization – and this group of volunteers are committed to keeping as much money here as possible.

Since I’m not on the board anymore, I feel safe in telling you that with all that has been done, there’s so much more that we can do.

If we’re willing to pull together and give just a little bit.

– Did you know that if you work in another county or another state that has a United Way, if you ask them, they are required to send your donation back to Switzerland County? All you have to do is give your employer one of the local pledge cards with this county’s organization’s name and address, and they’ll send the money.

– Did you know that if you work at a place that doesn’t have a payroll deduction plan, you can still make a donation simply by filling out the pledge card and writing a check? Many people simply make a one time donation, including retired people who want to support local projects.

– Did you know that even if you grew up here and no longer live in Switzerland County, you can still designate part of your United Way contribution wherever in the country you are to come back here? Again, the name and the address will bring your money back home to help.


In a world filled with organizations that tie up a large percentage of your donation with handling fees such as helping to pay staff and pay the rent; the United Fund of Switzerland County exists in a post office box in Vevay (#221); and in the garage of Fred Stave near Patriot.

The United Fund is also an organization that lets you direct your gift to specific charities; and it also allows you to help decide where the money goes in general.

On the pledge card, there is a place where you can write down the groups or issues that concern you; and the board of directors totals those and uses them as guideposts in its giving through the year.

“Youth Programs” are continually at the top of the concerns, and the United Fund has helped with Little League uniforms; intramural basketball; scouting programs; 4-H programs; After prom; Big Stuf trips; and many more.

The big screen TV in the Swiss Villa Living Center was bought with United Fund money for the benefit of the residents; and some of the playground equipment in county and town parks was also purchased using United Fund funding.

It’s helped with the Dolly Parton “Imagination Station” program, which provides a new book each month for a county child from its birth until the age of five.

It also provides help for WIC programs and the Quercus Grove Food Pantry. It helps with funding for the Heart House homeless shelter that assists Switzerland County residents; as well as other social programs.

In short, I believe that the United Fund of Switzerland County is one of our hidden gems and best kept secrets – but you can help uncover it.

When you see a donation brochure, pick it up and fill it out and send it in. It doesn’t matter what the size of your gift is, because if everyone gives a little….

…We all end up with a lot.