In an uncertain economy, many people have less money for charitable contributions even as the need for those contributions increases. SMU’s 2009 United Way campaign has stepped up to both these challenges by increasing this year’s fund-raising goal to $75,000 – 10 percent more than last year – and by making it easier for more individuals to give what they can.
“We felt the need this year to address the specific concerns of the economy and world, and how those factors are affecting the population of Dallas,” says Andrell Gautier (right), lead coordinator, Budgets and Operations, in SMU’s Department of Human Resources and a committee coordinator for the 2009 campaign. “The United Way offers many programs funded through donated dollars to assist everyone from individuals affected by the credit card crisis, to those living without medical insurance, to our veterans returning from combat, to those who are living month to month with the help of financial assistance.”
This year’s campaign hits closer to home than in the past, with its focus on personal stories from SMU faculty and staff members who have received help from the United Way.
Gautier is one such story. A former employee (and United Way campaign volunteer) at Loyola University of New Orleans, she found herself and her two-year-old son stranded in Dallas in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Unable to return to her home, job and support network, she received advice and assistance from United Way-affiliated agencies that helped her establish a new home in Texas and transition from surviving to thriving.
“Never in a million years did I ever imagine that I would need assistance, but I got to experience first-hand how my (United Way) contributions were put into action to those in need,” Gautier wrote in a campaign testimonial. “Now, I am able to pay it forward, and I hope that others see the importance of donating to the United Way in times of crisis and need.”
The 2009 campaign features several options for giving. Faculty and staff members may contribute through a pledge form or online through eWay. The campaign will also team up with the SMU Staff Association to make the Association’s annual holiday luncheon a benefit for the United Service Organizations (USO), a United Way member agency.
Students receive the added convenience of making contributions with their Pony Express card at dining locations throughout the campus. The campaign has also met with the Student Foundation and the Panhellenic Council.
“There is a sense of pride and accomplishment when a community comes together to help improve the lives of others,” Gautier says. “We want to unite the efforts of students, faculty, staff and retirees by recognizing the importance of all these groups in the SMU community.”