Over the years, we have often described the 1,200 or so volunteers in the annual United Way of Greater Toledo campaign as foot soldiers in the war against disease and societal ills. This year the description seems especially apt.
Tonight at the Glass Bowl, the home of the University of Toledo Rockets, United Way will kick off - figuratively and literally - its annual campaign. Football players from Central Catholic High School will kick and receive the opening “kickoff,” then hand off to UWIE, United Way's mascot, who will start upfield in aggressive pursuit of the goal.
Aggressiveness will certainly be required if this year's goal is to be reached. United Way has set a target of $13.3 million for its 2003 campaign, which begins officially today and will end late in the fall. That's a slight increase from the amount raised in the 2002 campaign and a major challenge in an economy that continues to struggle and when downsizing and layoffs are an unhappy fact of life.
But it is precisely during tough economic times that the good work of United Way is most important. Disease - both physical and mental - recognizes no relationship to economic indicators, and some of society's gravest problems - dysfunctional families, alcohol and substance abuse - are every bit as serious, or worse, when times are bad.
United Way of Greater Toledo helps fund 73 agencies and 135 programs in Lucas, Wood, and Ottawa counties and needs annual replenishing to continue its vital work. Accordingly, this year's campaign chairman, Block Communications, Inc., chairman William Block, Jr., is stressing the importance of “extending our reach.”
Large and mid-sized companies have been the traditional target for corporate giving, but this year's campaign will contact some 2,000 additional companies, most of them relatively small, principally with a kit called “Campaign in a Box.”
There is no way to overstate the importance of their participation and all others in this area who are not givers. United Way says that of the nearly 600,000 folks in the three counties, only 60,000 are donors to United Way. Put another way, they say, if every household and business in the three counties contributed at suggested levels, the campaign would raise $90 million.
That's not going to happen. But nearly everyone in the three-county area is touched by a United Way agency or knows somebody who is. To get back to the football analogy, this is no time to fumble the ball.