Portage United Way raises campaign goal

Kelley Stoklosa

The United Way of Portage County has increased its campaign goal this year and aims to raise $1,025,000 for 2010.

“That amount is only slightly up from last year, in an effort to keep up with the needs in Portage County and grow the organization,” said Steven Kleiber, United Way of Portage County president and CEO.

For the past two years, the yearly goal has been $1,020,000.

The campaign goal is decided on once board members meet with community members and local organizations to assess current needs.

Kleiber said basic needs such as rent, utilities and groceries are becoming a greater concern for people in the area.

United Way’s resource center, 211 Portage, connects local residents with assistance and has seen an increase in the number of calls it receives over the last few years.

“When I joined the company, 211 Portage received about 13,000 calls a year,” Kleiber said. “By 2008 to 2009, over 20,000 calls were coming in each year,”

Once the campaign goal is reached, a volunteer committee meets to decide where the money should go. Organizations around the county apply each year to receive assistance. The committee reviews applications and makes on-site visits.

The volunteer committee, which consists of Kent State students, employees and Portage County residents, helps keep the United Way of Portage County accountable.

If an organization did not use all of the money it received the previous year, the volunteer committee would allocate a lesser amount to that organization, said Terri Christensen, campaign committee chair.

Kent State is one of the organization’s largest contributors, donating around 12 percent of the annual goal, said Cathy Lance, vice president of resource development.

Students will hold a canned food drive 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 23 in Risman Plaza. A spaghetti dinner will also take place Nov. 15 and 16, where students can purchase a dinner with their meal plan or pay in cash. Proceeds of each meal will go to United Way of Portage County, said Chris Hook, student leader for United Way on campus.

An online auction took place on Kent State’s website in September. Faculty, staff and students were invited to bid on items like gift certificates to local restaurants, tickets to the zoo and gift baskets made by departments on campus. The auction raised $3,338.

Many Kent State faculty and staff choose to contribute through a payroll deduction option.

In 2009, 432 employees gave an average of $249.76 through the tax-detectable payroll option.

Christensen said employees could decide the amount they want taken out of each paycheck and forget about it for the rest of the year.

“It’s a couple of sodas you might miss,” said Kleiber.

You can contact Kelley Stoklosa at [email protected].