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United Way needs community's help to reach this year's goal

The United Way St. Croix Valley campaign is underway. Executive Director John Coughlin, left, and campaign chairman Dave Ihle are looking forward to reaching this year's goal. Submitted photo

As might be expected, this year's United Way St. Croix Valley campaign is behind where it was at this time last year but not by so much that it can't be made up.

That's what UW executive director John Coughlin is hoping for this holiday season. The campaign is about $11,000 below last year's pledges at this point and at about 65 percent of the $1 million goal. "There are lots of things that are affecting us. Companies laying off employees and downsizing means fewer people using payroll deduction. Our longtime donors continue to support us but some have cut back on their donations and we need to attract more new donors," said Coughlin.

The campaign fell $100,000 short last year and that had a big impact on United Way funding. There was no budget increase and won't be this year either. Funding priority will be given to those area organizations that meet basic needs - food and shelter. The agency has been a longtime supporter of Grace Place, the family shelter in Somerset, and helped establish the Food Resource Center on the campus of Trinity Family Center that provides food for more than a dozen food shelves in the area.

"We are committed to continue to help fund those organizations and agencies like Operation HELP and the Salvation Army that address those needs. We don't want anybody sleeping in their car or going hungry," said Coughlin. He acknowledges, however, that if United Way doesn't reach its goal this year, funding for other programs like those that serve seniors, people with disabilities and children and families could be affected.

Coughlin pointed to the Food Resource Center as an example of how United Way St. Croix Valley is using whatever funding they raise efficiently to reach as many of those in need as possible. Since it opened in 2008, the center has distributed more than a half million pounds of food to shelters across St. Croix and Pierce counties. They have recently become members of the Emergency Food Shelf Network, a cooperative that makes members' dollars stretch even further, and is the source for staples like sugar, flour, oil, tuna, canned vegetables and fruit and peanut butter.

The center is getting bow-shot venison through the Land and Conservation of the DNR. They also provide hygiene kits free of any charge to the food shelves that use the center.

Coughlin said the need for food and the other items the center provides is continuing to grow in the areas it serves. Food shelves report that their business has increased by an average of 30 percent over last year.

According to United Way St. Croix Valley, any size donation to the annual campaign supports about seventy different non-profit agencies and programs. The goal of the campaign is to help donors make a broad impact through a single gift. For example, a $25 donation can provide 11 meals. A $50 donation covers the cost of two nights of shelter at Grace Place for a family.

United Way board president Tonya Lathe said that the organization hopes that people will respond and promises that the board will invest donations wisely. "We understand the challenges facing our communities and we thank everyone who has given. Now we need additional businesses and individuals to step forward and give whatever they can."

Anyone interested in contributing to United Way online can do so securely at by visiting the "Give" page. Contributions can be mailed to United Way St. Croix Valley, 516 Second St., Suite 214B, Hudson, WI 54016. For more information, call (715)377-0203.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604