United Way needs your help this holiday season

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United Way fundrasier Aug. 2013 | Courtesy photo

IDAHO FALLS – If you’re looking for a way to help someone out during the holidays, you may want to consider making a donation to the United Way.

The United Way provides funding to nonprofit agencies across the country that help people who are struggling in different areas. Through its annual giving campaign, it targets its donations to three areas of focus.

Kelly Stombaugh, a resource development associate for the United Way of Southeastern Idaho in Pocatello, tells EastIdahoNews.com it’s about halfway to this year’s goal of $750,000.

“The three areas we primarily focus on are health, education and financial stability. (We partner with 30 different organizations) to help us determine what part they play in filling the immediate needs of people in our community,” Stombaugh said.

Financial stability is a big area of concern right now for people in the seven counties Stombaugh works with, which includes Bingham, Bannock, Power, Oneida, Franklin, Bear Lake and Caribou. She says 44 percent of households within these counties are financially unstable.

“The biggest problem (we see) is homelessness, a lack of resources for financial assistance, (a lack of) food available — just being able to make ends meet for most people,” Stombaugh says.

The Idaho Foodbank and the Salvation Army are two of the organizations the United Way partners with to combat this issue in these communities.

Despite raising less than its goal, Stombaugh says the United Way has provided 4,500 people with food assistance, clothing, housing, transportation, utilities, Christmas and school supplies. It has also provided more than 12,000 seniors with hot lunches this year.

The United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County serves another seven counties in eastern Idaho: Bonneville, Jefferson, Madison, Fremont, Clark, Lemhi and Teton.

It partners with 28 organizations to help combat similar issues. Christine Wiersema, president and CEO of the United Way in Idaho Falls, says 41 percent of households in these seven counties struggle to make ends meet.

Its campaign ends March 31. Three quarters of the way through, it has raised $700,000 of its $800,000 goal.

So far, Wiersema says United Way has been able to help 85,000 people locally receive hot, nutritious meals. It has also helped 420 students receive tutoring from low-income seniors by funding a program called Foster Grandparents.

Throughout the year, the United Way holds fundraising events in these communities. In Idaho Falls, Wiersema says the majority of donations come from individuals through payroll deductions, and corporate partners will often match employee donations.

“United Way was very much a part of the baby boomer generation,” Wiersema says. “Everybody knew who we were, and it was just a checkbox on their yearly payroll deduction. With a large number of people (from that generation) retiring, we’re spending a lot more time reintroducing ourselves to different demographics.”

Though payroll deductions are a convenient way for most people to donate, cash donations are also accepted. Last week, for example, employees with the city of Pocatello donated $21,593 to the United Way.

“Since I started working (for the United Way), I’ve learned that eastern Idaho is very giving, not only financially, but also with their time. That has a huge impact on what we are able to do for the community,” Stombaugh says.

The United Way does not use any of the donations given. One hundred percent goes to the partnering agencies. If you’d like to make a donation, contact the United Way. The Pocatello office can be reached at (208) 232-1389. To contact the Idaho Falls office, call (208) 522-2674.

United Way of Southeastern Idaho