WUSTL’s United Way campaign under way

Annual drive helps St. Louis organizations serve community

With the support of the United Way, the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition has found homes for 113 children the past two years, said Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the coalition. That includes one little boy, Steven.

Steven was born in Haiti, and his mother sent him to the United States five years ago to help him find a better life.

Soon after the coalition took on Steven’s case, an earthquake struck Haiti. Steven was glued to TV coverage, searching for a glimpse of his mother. More than anything, Steven wanted to know if she was alive.

Thanks to efforts by the coalition and other volunteers, Steven’s mother was found, and Steven was able to speak with her for the first time since he left Haiti. Soon after, Steven was placed with a family in the St. Louis area.

His soon-to-be-adoptive parents, Scheetz said, are taking Creole lessons so that they can speak with Steven’s mother, and the family is planning a trip to visit her later this year.

“Your support of the United Way touches a lot of people — not only in St. Louis, but across the world,” Scheetz said.

WUSTL’s 2010 United Way campaign began Sept. 8 with a kickoff breakfast in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge, with the goal of raising $615,000 to support the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition and nearly 200 other United Way of Greater St. Louis agencies.

The United Way of Greater St. Louis supports organizations in the St. Louis region that offer an array of services, including counseling and substance abuse recovery, affordable child care, disaster relief and opportunities for exercise and recreation. This year’s goal of raising $615,000 for the United Way is the university’s most ambitious yet.

“The United Way, in one way or another, serves about one-third of the people of the St. Louis region every year, including members of the university community,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “The university receives substantial benefits from being part of the greater St. Louis community, and this is an important opportunity for us to give back.

“A key to success in the 2010 Washington University campaign,” Wrighton said, “is to increase participation. Participation in last year’s campaign was approximately 15 percent. The university is looking to increase that fraction in 2010 by asking employees who have not participated in the past to give what they can this year, even if it is at a modest level.”

WUSTL offers employees two ways to contribute: via pledge cards, which are being sent through campus mail, and online using the HRMS system.

To make a pledge online, visit hr.wustl.edu and use your WUSTL KEY to sign into HRMS Self Service. Click on Employee Self Service and select United Way Pledges. For assistance with passwords, call the Help Desk at (314) 935-5707.

More than 90 cents of each dollar the United Way receives is given to a United Way agency to benefit the community. United Way-supported agencies serve a large, diverse population of more than one million people each year in 16 counties in Missouri and Illinois — approximately one of every three in the St. Louis area.

A gift of $200 to the United Way, for example, can provide 20 hearing screenings for school-age children, six pairs of eyeglasses for low-income seniors, or shoes and clothing for a school year for one child in need.

A gift of $50 can provide a week of breakfasts for 10 children in need, two nights of shelter for homeless individuals, or education classes aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect to one parent.

WUSTL’s drive coincides with the United Way’s own $68 million campaign, which is chaired by James D. Weddle, managing partner of Edward Jones.

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.

For more information about the United Way of Greater St. Louis, visit stl.unitedway.org. The website also features a video about the United Way, and those who watch the video can enter to win gift cards, St. Louis Cardinals tickets or a 2010 Ford Focus.