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Exploding myths about the United Way

Here in Martin County, we put the "treasure" in Treasure Coast. Our community possesses a bonanza of natural and financial resources. But not everyone living among us is so blessed, and there are many local charities residents trust to help those who need a hand up.

One of those charities I trust is the United Way of Martin County. United Way helps our neighbors directly, and it also helps our neighbors helping neighbors, by funding many of the excellent local non-profits that have developed an expertise in the services our community needs.

Despite the good work United Way does, occasionally I have heard negative comments about it. Maybe you have heard them, too:

  • "Donations don't stay in the community."
  • "Donations go to organizations I do not support."
  • "Donations go mostly to overhead and to salaries."

None of these comments hold up to scrutiny. Let's take them one by one. Donations made to our United Way most assuredly stay at home. Our United Way supports, among others, the after-school care program at Hope Rural School in Indiantown, Baby Steps at Helping People Succeed, Little Lights Dentistry at Light of the World Charities, Meals on Wheels through the Council on Aging, the domestic violence program at SafeSpace, and the pre-apprentice program with Project Lift.

Moreover, the programs I just listed barely scratch the surface. United Way supports more than 40 programs locally. Each program includes staff and leaders well-versed in what our community needs. That makes your donation a smart investment.

Importantly, the donations you make to United Way go to programs all can support. Our United Way is an independent 501(c)(3) organization, and it supports local programs that reflect our community. Do you support young mothers seeing an unplanned pregnancy through and raising their baby? Mary's Shelter, which supports women in that very situation, receives support from United Way. Do you support a home for women who are the victims of domestic violence? Safespace provides that service with funding from United Way. Do you believe in feeding and clothing the needy? Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army both receive United Way funding.

And finally, the claim that too much donation money goes to overhead and salaries? False. The United Way of Martin County's 2018 audit, available online, reflects that administrative costs, including salaries, amount to just fourteen percent of the organization's annual revenues. This is well in-line with what administrative costs should be for a well-run charity.

Our United Way's vision statement reads: "Bravely, we dream of a day when no one in Martin County goes to bed hungry. We dream of strong, successful families. We dream of a UNITED community where everyone is healthy and has the opportunity to succeed, reaching their fullest potential in a safe and secure place." That's a vision all Martin County residents should support. You can learn how to do so at https://www.unitedwaymartin.org/home.

Mark Miller, an attorney and past president of the Martin County Bar Association, is a United Way 2018-19 campaign volunteer.