Blackened eyes and bruises are nasty evidence of things gone wrong. But as more victims are unwilling to silently tolerate domestic violence, providers are overwhelmed with pleas for help. The House of Ruth, for example, served 400 women and children in its initial year in 1977. Last year, 8,000 individuals benefited from an array of programs that range from a shelter for 24 women and children to counseling and legal assistance for battered women as well as their mates.
The House of Ruth is just one of more than 100 health and human service agencies supported by the United Way of Central Maryland, which kicks off its 1991 fund-raising campaign today. This year's theme -- "Together, we are making a difference" -- is particularly apt because a change initiated a year ago allows donors to direct their dollars to a specific area of need. This opportunity is available again this year, meaning that contributors can earmark dollars for a cause or charity that best addresses their social concern or geographic area.
As 75 percent of contributions come from employees in the workplace, 20 percent from corporate gifts and 5 percent from individuals and foundations, the annual United Way campaign often is accompanied by much hoopla to drum up interest. Last year, the chief executive officer of Francis Scott Key Medical Center volunteered for the "dunking booth," a gimmick that helped to prompt a 12 percent increase in employee giving. At the law firm of Weinberg and Green, a more serious approach was used. Donations soared after employees toured Christopher Place, a homeless shelter for men, and Keswick, an agency providing care for the chronically ill.
This year, the United Way campaign hopes to raise more than $33 million. About 40 percent of those dollars would be targeted for services to strengthen families and to help persons in crisis; 32 percent provide health, information, education and emergency services.
Over the years, the United Way of Central Maryland has often examined its work so that it can better serve Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, Howard and Carroll counties. It is taking stock again. Its internal organization was recently streamlined. There is also a growing realization that the United Way cannot -- and will not -- be successful unless it can enroll 1,800 area companies with 50 employees or more that currently do not participate in the annual campaign.
Hard times are stretching the capacity and resources of many aid organizations. They need help. We urge our readers to support the United Way. It has a solid record as a reputable and responsible aid giver helping to make Maryland better.