WITH WINTER FREEZES almost here, governments are drastically curtailing programs to help the needy. Private donation, the impulse to help one's neighbor, is counted on to fill the breech. Fortunately, United Way of Central Maryland has a good chance -- with one last push -- to meet its ambitious goal of $37 million for private and public sector campaigns.
Yesterday, the campaign stood well within reach at $36.6 million. It should exceed the goal. The money can be well spent on food, disease, shelter, special education, rehabilitation and other acute needs of ourselves and neighbors.
This target is $29.25 million in payroll pledges for the private sector United Way campaign in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties; $4.4 million in the Combined Federal Campaign among federal employees; $2.4 million in the Maryland Charity Campaign among state employees, and $950,000 from the Combined Charity Campaign among Baltimore City employees. All three government work force campaigns are managed by United Way.
The deadline for these targets is this coming Monday. Last year, the equivalent campaigns dribbled on until February before an accounting was made. The process has now been tightened up in this and other respects.
For health and human services, United Way fund-raising is the most cost-effective there is. United Way audits agencies and programs to make sure the aid gets to where it is needed and does what the donors intended. But United Way will also distribute money to other charities as donors designate. One pledge gives a stated amount every payday.
It will long be debated whether leaving so much burden to private giving, as House Speaker Newt Gingrich urges, is a good idea. But it is being done this winter. That puts greater responsibility on all of us as individuals to donate to food, health, counseling and other needs, not just of the poor but of a broad cross-section of Central Maryland.
When the current congressional budget battle is finished and the Maryland General Assembly has completed its 1996 session, the needs dumped on voluntary philanthropy for next year are going to be greater than ever.
But if United Way of Central Maryland succeeds in meeting this year's goal, $2 million above last year's pledges, the Baltimore-area community will be able to face that challenge with greater confidence.