Check presented to United Way: Despite troubled economy, 'second effort' helps university exceed 2008 goal

With the help of a handful of anonymous donors who reached into their pockets a second time, Fort Hays State University once again exceeded its fund-drive goal for the United Way of Ellis County.

During a news conference this morning, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president and chair of the campus drive, presented a check in the amount of $37,007.20 to representatives of the United Way. The university's 2008 goal was $37,000.

"Once again this year, even though we're all beginning to feel the squeeze of a tight economy, the employees of FHSU stepped up and gave generous support to the United Way, which funds several member agencies that provide a variety of needed services for the citizens of Ellis County," the president said. "Initially, we fell just a bit short of our goal, but a handful of individuals made additional contributions to lift us over the top."

Sue Rouse, executive director of the United Way of Ellis County, accepted the check from President Hammond. "The university is a long-standing supporter of the United Way," she said. "Faculty and staff are very generous. They know the impact United Way programs have on our community."

President Hammond described the history of the university's involvement. "Fort Hays State University has been a major player in the success of the United Way during its 50-plus years in Ellis County," he said. "The university's involvement began in 1953 when Dr. Robert T. McGrath, an FHSU faculty member, led the first United Way campaign."

He noted that in addition to their financial contributions, FHSU's faculty and staff have given their time to many United Way agencies. University faculty were instrumental in organizing the Northwest Kansas Family Shelter and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the High Plains. University leadership provided the first accessible transportation through an Easter Seals van now operated by the Western Kansas Association on Concerns of the Disabled. A strong partnership with the Hays Area Children's Center provides a learning lab for university students while giving the community's most vulnerable citizens an opportunity for a higher quality of life.

"Faculty, staff and students also play a vital role by providing many of the rank-and-file volunteers who assist in the operations of the United Way's member agencies," he added.

The president said he was heartened by the wide participation in the United Way fund drive by university employees. As leader of the campus drive, he has instituted a novel approach in which all university employees are asked to participate by returning a pledge card.

"We ask each employee to give thoughtful consideration and return the card, even if he or she is not able to give anything that year," he explained. This year, 95 percent of university employees responded, and 56 percent of university employees made contributions. Seventy-four units on campus had 100-percent participation. As he does each year, the president will entertain the members of the 100-percent units in Victor E. Lounge at basketball games during the season.

In addition, 29 units achieved the United Way's Gold Award status, which means they gave at least $500 and they either had 100-percent giving or averaged a gift of at least $25 per person.
Rouse said the official ceremony to close this year's United Way fund drive was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at Hays Chevrolet.

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