PUBLISHED: 4:16 PM on Wednesday, October 17, 2007
United Way is giving back
Think you are a generous person?

Think you are there when your friends need help?

At the end of the day, do you feel good about helping your community and your friends?

What if I told you there was more we could all do, something easy, something that we can do today, that will help hundreds of our neighbors?

Would you do it?

Okay, it's this simple.

Make a contribution to our United Way of Southeast Alaska.

If you haven't looked at our United Way in awhile, you need to take a fresh look.

This is not a national organization that takes and seldom gives back.

This is OUR United Way, working in our communities from Ketchikan to Skagway with 39 member agencies, tackling everything from abuse to cancer, scouting to homeless, hunger to illiteracy.

But the point about our United Way is not that we have thousands of friends and neighbors who need a helping hand-not a handout-right here among us.

The point is not even that it is the essence of being Alaskan-taking care of our own people and our own communities, in our own way.

The point is that tomorrow, it could be you or your family or me or mine, that need that help.

Our comfortable lives are wonderful and fragile, things.

An accident.

A lost job.

A sudden illness.

Or any of a thousand very real and very common misfortunes, for us or for a family member, that can change everything.

One person in three in Southeast Alaska will receive some kind of benefit or help form United Way-funded agencies.

"All our agencies are hurting, as federal grants decrease and cost of doing business goes up," United Way president Brenda Hewitt said.

"Things like rent and fuel that are the hardest for non-profits to raise, that is money we contribute that they can use for those critical needs.

This is especially true for the smaller communities in the Southeast, which receive several dollars from the United Way for every one they contribute.

Of the money you give, only one percent goes outside Alaska, to the national organization.

You can designate a specific agency or area of care to receive your contribution, or make a general contribution that the United Way board allocates, based on requests from the member agencies.

"We put it where it is needed most," Hewitt said.

Alaskans, sadly, rank dead last among all states in charitable giving from higher income families. And only one out of eight employees from our largest employer - state government-makes a contribution.

Even if we have good intentions, we may not be able to do many of the things our neighbors need, whether it's providing a shelter for battered families, or being a mentor for a lonely child, or feeding the homeless, or being the first to respond to a disaster, or being there in a terminally ill person's last days.

We can't do it all.

But we can help.

We can make a decision, just once a year, to contribute to the one agency that does all those things and a thousand others. And making that choice, to have a few bucks taken from each pay check each pay period to give to our United Way, can make all the difference.

It's not just about helping those on hard times.

Our United Way is also taking a proactive role in improving the core issues bedeviling Southeast Alaska-affordable housing, jobs, racism, substance abuse.

There are many of us already pitching in.

Last year total contributions to our United Way exceeded a quarter million dollars, although that was down about 10 percent from 2005. The goal for this year is larger, $325,000, to cover all those rising costs.

The annual campaign continues into November. If your employer is having an on-site campaign, please make a contribution today.

If you'd like to learn more about the United Way of Southeast Alaska, go online to You can also see the 2007 United Way annual report at Or call 907-463-5530.

"Just give us a call and we'll get you set up," Hewitt said.

"Money can't buy happiness. However, giving it away does! That's what United Way does. It lets them put their money where they want it, in their communities."

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and advertising director of the Juneau Empire. Email him at