Spent a few valuable minutes the other day talking with Meghan Pitzer, executive director at United Way of Citrus County, and she told me something that really got my goat.
I’m a big United Way fan in Citrus County. I know they do good work. Citizens in our community benefit from a strong United Way. I’m sure you've seen Gerry Mulligan’s column in the Chronicle asking each resident to contribute.
So United Way is all about local. Local money comes in, money goes out locally. Rent, mortgage, electric bill, school programs, veterans services – for Citrus County adults and children.
I mention all this because Meghan told me about being invited to speak recently to a local organization. One of the group’s members, she later learned, purposely did not attend the engagement because United Way supports Planned Parenthood and he doesn’t support Planned Parenthood.
Stuff like this makes me crazy.
Let’s get this out of the way right off. Citrus County United Way does NOT provide funding for Planned Parenthood. OK, got that?
I went to the United Way Worldwide website and it has a specific mention about Planned Parenthood. It says about 1,100 local United Ways in the U.S. – 1% of the total – give to Planned Parenthood. I’m guessing those communities are OK with it.
(Each local United Way decides how to spend its money. The big group provides name and support.)
Back to Citrus United Way.
Not that she has the time, but speaking with Meghan is a real eye opener. The hurdles she and her staff face to raise money, disburse funds, find grants, seek partners and direct clients through the maze of rules and paperwork – well, it’s a lot.
For Meghan to learn someone, based on a misguided and blatantly incorrect political impression, boycotted an opportunity to glean all that United Way does in Citrus County is very discouraging.
Look. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your money. That’s not the point.
But for gosh’s sake don’t MAKE UP reasons to not support United Way or any of the other organizations in our community that exist for the sole purpose of helping those who need help.
United Way has always been a tough nut to crack fundraising wise. Mulligan’s annual appeal raises thousands, as do employee contributions from businesses throughout the county. Unlike specific programs, such as the YMCA or Key Training Center, United Way’s challenge is finding people who want to give simply for the concept.
It’s a great concept. United Way uses locally raised dollars, matches them with grants and other assistance, and helps people who need it. I’m not in that spot and probably neither are you. The poor and disadvantaged aren’t usually easily identified.
I feel pretty confident saying that through United Way of Citrus County’s efforts, there are citizens in our community who have a roof over their heads, food in the cupboard, and presents under the Christmas tree.
If you want to politicize giving to charities, do the homework and make sure the things you’re hearing about national groups apply locally. Then give, or not, in whatever direction the heart leads.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.