The issue: Declining contributions, a change in directors, a shaky economy and questions about merging with other chapters add to an uncertain future for United Way of Leavenworth County.
Our view: United Way, despite the seemingly daunting obstacles, needs to remain intact, staffed by a full-time director, with a sole focus on providing for the many people in need in our county.
One of the truest signs of a tight-knit community is its ability to rally around worthy causes for its vulnerable residents.
We see it numerous times throughout the year in Leavenworth and Lansing. The latest example is a recent effort by local officials to launch Operation Food Locker, which has a stated mission of organizing food drives throughout the year to replenish dwindling stocks at local pantries.
More on this later in the week.
Today's focus, however, is United Way of Leavenworth County, and more precisely, what appears to be an uncertain future for the nonprofit agency. The group hosted its annual meeting Monday at the University of Saint Mary, and based on the news coverage of the event, United Way has more questions than answers at this point, and sadly so.
Donations to United Way — money that is then funneled into area health and human service groups — are declining.
The reasons could be many: an economy still on uncertain footing, tighter personal finances, or people simply saving more than they can afford to give.
During the meeting, United Way Executive Director Nancy Bauder announced she is retiring after three years of service to devote more time to friends, family and her art business.
The Leavenworth Times thanks her for her public service, and certainly wishes her well in the future.
The meeting also included gauging stakeholder opinions on strategic questions moving forward:
• Could United Way be effectively managed with one part-time employee?
• Would it be best for United Way to merge with chapters in Atchison and/or Wyandotte counties?
• Should United Way close in Leavenworth County so more attention could be paid to individual charities?
The majority of respondents answered no, no, and no to each of those questions, positions the Leavenworth Times fully supports.
Although United Way missed its $350,000 fundraising goal in the 2013-14 campaign, it nonetheless raised more than $300,000 for area agencies. The numbers were $382,373 in 2011-12 and $336,895 for 2012-13.
That's more than $1 million in three years that county residents and businesses have contributed — with United Way as the lobbyist and clearinghouse — for worthy causes throughout Leavenworth County.
Although there may be other factors we're unaware of causing the agency to question its future, the Leavenworth Times doesn't believe those numbers are a failure.
Are they off the mark of desired targets? Perhaps. Could donations be more? Probably.
But, the fact remains county residents and businesses are giving what they can, and United Way is doing the noble work of putting it all together.
Without the centralized effort, it's not unreasonable to believe that $1 million-plus wouldn't have existed, not in its entirety, the last three years. How many people would have gone without food or health care or utility assistance in those years without United Way?
Any organization or entity — private households, governments or businesses — must continually evaluate operations or the state of things in search of a better way.
We appreciate United Way asking tough, important questions.
But, the Leavenworth Times agrees wholeheartedly with the majority of respondents at Monday's meeting.
No, no and no.
United Way must stay, and it's up to the agency's shot callers and all of us to ensure they have all the right reasons to do so.