United Way donations up, but agencies could face funding cuts


United Way donations in Howard County increased to $2.3 million in the 1993 fund-raising campaign, 3 percent more than in the previous year, but local health and human service agencies still face possible cuts in United Way funding.

The reason is that local groups get their funding from United Way of Central Maryland, the umbrella organization that allocates United Way money in Baltimore and in five counties, including Howard.

In the 1993 campaign, United Way of Central Maryland hit a six-year low of $27.5 million in pledges, which will force it to cut allocations to some service agencies.

"It doesn't look real good," said Andrea Ingram, executive director of the Grassroots homeless shelter in Columbia, which receives about 9 percent of its funding from United Way. "These are hard times for people."

United Way of Central Maryland had hoped to recover from a two-year drop in donations -- from $32 million in 1990 to $31.4 million in 1991 and $28.4 million in 1992.

The steady decline has been attributed to weakness in the economy and to a national furor that led to the 1992 resignation of William Aramony, the head of United Way of America, over his perquisites and high salary.

After that controversy, donations in Howard County dropped from an all-time high of more than $2.5 million in 1991.

Donald Manekin, chairman of the fund-raising campaign for Howard County, said that he sees the 1993 increase as a positive sign.

"I just think people [in Howard County] really realized how tough it's been," said Mr. Manekin, a partner and senior vice president of the Columbia-based Manekin Corp., one of the area's largest real estate development companies. "They just rolled up their sleeves and said, 'We've got to do something.' "

County service agencies are awaiting United Way of Central Maryland's decision on how much the county agencies will get.

It works like this: United Way donations go into United Way of Central Maryland's general fund and are divided among Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Howard and Harford counties.

Donors also are allowed to designate funds for a particular service agency, guaranteeing that the organization specified will get the money. United Way of Central Maryland decides where nondesignated funds go.

Howard County's share of all donations varies from year to year. Last year, for example, the county received half of the $2.2 million collected throughout the county.

United Way of Central Maryland has not determined each county's allocation for this year, but last month it warned local agencies that they could face cuts of up to 8 percent in their funding because of slack donations statewide.

Those funds benefit such groups as Grassroots and the Domestic Violence Center, a Columbia-based shelter for battered women and children that is in its first year as a United Way member.

Ms. Ingram of Grassroots said that she had hoped she would get $30,000 more than last year's $88,000 United Way allocation. The additional funds would be used to help the agency open a shelter for homeless men.

Stephanie K. Sites, executive director of the Domestic Violence Center, said that her organization wanted to use United Way money to open another emergency shelter that would house eight people.

The emergency shelter would require $168,137 total for the next two years, Ms. Sites said. In addition, the center has requested $153,059 over next two years to increase its clinical services, which would include a full-time attorney.

Both groups now face the prospect of lower-than-expected allocations from United Way.

"I think the people in Howard County give very generously," Ms. Sites said. "But I don't know that it's going to mean anything as far as us getting money."

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