Readers of the Daily Inter Lake are aware of alleged problems with our local United Way. The recent resignation of longtime United Way executive director Sherry Stevens seems to have amplified or shed light on some of these problems.
Some folks connected to the United Way have reached out to us and blamed our coverage for recent United Way fundraising problems or for the alleged issues at the United Way. No one has pointed out any errors or inaccuracies in our reporting. They have simply wanted to place blame somewhere, and we seem to be the place.
So, let’s set the record straight.
The Inter Lake and its staff have a long tradition of supporting the United Way, not only our local United Way but United Way organizations in other communities when staff members have lived in other locations.
Staff members of the Inter Lake have served as United Way board chairs, campaign chairperson, loaned executives, and members of committees while often chairing those committees. That doesn’t take into account the many hours staff members have donated to United Way in fundraising efforts and the tens of thousands of dollars raised for United Way agencies through those staff members efforts. And for decades, the Inter Lake has supported an annual employee donation campaign through United Way.
We understand completely the United Way slogan that the “United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community,” but we feel our local United Way seems to have lost its way in following the national slogan. Unfortunately, the people being served by the United Way member agencies are the ones paying the price, and that isn’t right.
It is time for the United Way of Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Glacier and Sanders counties to be transparent and come clean with the community about all of the happenings and dealings within the organization. For decades this United Way has raised money to distribute among its member agencies. The stakeholders — the donors, the member agencies and the people served by those agencies — deserve nothing less than complete honesty and disclosure. The United Way can’t move forward without it.
And while the United Way board seems to be moving in a positive direction, the campaign should be happening right now and we fear the pace of change isn’t fast enough. People making donations today should have complete confidence that their hard-earned money is going where he/she intends. Our confidence in that taking place has certainly been shaken, and we haven’t heard much from the United Way that would calm our fears or give us reassurance that will take place.
If you feel the same, but still want to help people in our communities, consider making a donation directly to an agency that you feel is worthy. That should give the United Way board time to make some necessary changes without hurting people in need.