Most ambitious United Way campaign under way

Ashley came to Almost Home — an organization that provides housing, education, counseling and support services to homeless teenage mothers and their children — at age 14 with her 1-year-old son, Daveon.

Among Almost Home’s goals, according to Sheroo Mukhtiar, executive director, is helping mothers stay in school and eventually become “anything they want to be,” Mukhtiar said.

Though life hasn’t been easy for Ashley, five years later, she is a high-school graduate studying at Harris-Stowe State University to be a financial analyst.

Almost Home depends on support from United Way to assist women like Ashley, said Mukhtiar, a 1994 graduate of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

“Without you,” Mukhtiar said, “we wouldn’t be able to continue our mission.”

Washington University’s 2008 United Way of Greater St. Louis campaign began Sept. 2 with a kickoff breakfast at Whittemore House.

This year’s goal of raising $600,000 for the United Way is the University’s most ambitious yet.

“A goal of this magnitude is going to be a challenge,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said, “but I believe the potential is there to go well beyond $600,000 if we can raise the level of participation in the campaign.”

Sheroo Mukhtiar discusses the importance of giving to the United Way campaign at the campaign’s kickoff breakfast at Whittemore House. Mukhtiar is executive director of Almost Home, a United Way-supported organization that provides services to homeless teenage mothers and their children.

Participation in past campaigns has hovered around 14 percent, and the University is looking to increase that percentage in 2008 by offering employees two ways to contribute: via pledge cards, which are being sent via campus mail, and online using the HRMS system.

“I encourage the University community to support the United Way because the community has been so supportive of us,” Wrigh-ton said. “Washington University receives substantial benefits from the greater St. Louis community, and this is an opportunity for us to give back.”

The University’s drive coincides with the United Way’s own $65.5 million campaign, which is chaired by Andrew C. Taylor, chairman and CEO of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and member of the WUSTL Board of Trustees.

One of United Way’s most impressive attributes is its efficiency, Wrighton said. “More than 90 cents of each dollar that is contributed to the United Way ends up in a United Way agency bringing benefits to people,” he said.

The United Way of Greater St. Louis supports nearly 200 health and human-service organizations in the St. Louis region and provides an array of services to a large, diverse population.

United Way-supported agencies offer job counseling and training, affordable child care, disaster relief, opportunities for exercise and recreation and much more to approximately one million people — one of every three in the St. Louis area — each year.

A gift of $250 to the United Way, for example, can provide one week at a shelter for a battered woman and her children or two weeks of day camp for an at-risk youth. A gift of $50 can provide eyeglasses for a child or 25 meals delivered to homebound seniors with disabilities.

The WUSTL campaign officially ends in late October, but the Office of Human Resources will accept pledge cards up until the end of the calendar year and beyond.

To make a pledge online, visit and click on HRMS Self Service. Directions for using the online pledge are included with the Chancellor’s letter to all faculty and staff announcing the start of the campaign. For assistance with passwords, call the Help Desk at 935-5707. Click on Employee Self Service and select United Way Pledges.

For more information about the United Way of Greater St. Louis, visit The Web site also features a video about the United Way, and those who watch the video can enter to win gift cards, St. Louis Cardinals tickets, an HDTV or a 2009 Jeep Patriot.