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United Way drive begins

Festivities and refreshments in Lobby 7 from 11:30-1:30pm today mark the start of the annual United Way campaign at MIT, where campaign officials hope to raise $322,000 by December 7.

The Institute goal is 7.5 percent of the 1994 target for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay (UWMB), which hopes for donations totaling $42.96 million. Over the past five years, the MIT community has raised almost $1.5 million for UWMB, which distributes funds to more than 200 nonprofit social-service agencies that help 1.7 million people in 81 cities and towns.

One of the agencies that receives such funding is Victory Programs, which helps people with substance-abuse problems and HIV. "You don't have any idea of the impact of donations on an organization like ours," executive director Jonathan Scott told a gathering of MIT chief solicitors last month. United Way helps Victory Programs not just with money, he said, but with other things such as management training and consulting, gifts in kind and an emergency fund available in case a grant from another source is suddenly lost, for example.

Many people often feel overwhelmed by the myriad social and economic problems of the day, such as inadequate medical care and child care, homelessness, substance abuse and violence. Donations to agencies that combat these problems are important, and "the United Way enables us to accomplish this in a highly efficient manner," President Charles M. Vest said.

"It's an opportunity for us to participate in hope, for us not to be helpless," added Carla Kirmani, an administrative officer in the Department of Mathematics and co-chair of this year's campaign. The chairman is Professor Emeritus Robert Alberty of chemistry, former dean of the School of Science, while Elizabeth Mulcahy, administrator in the Office of Special Community Services is the MIT employee campaign manager.

Last year, MIT raised $322,378 to exceed its goal of $320,000; 1,732 members of the community pledged an average of $186 apiece, and 64 Leadership Givers (those who pledge at least $1,000) accounted for $99,750 of the total. That money stays local, with 85 cents of every dollar going directly to UWMB agencies.

Employees will be receiving pledge cards from their area's chief solicitors, who may pick up materials early next week in Rm 20A-023. The card allows an individual to specify how his or her donation will be applied: to the general fund, to agencies in one of eight categories (health, HIV/AIDS, children, elderly, hungry and homeless, etc.), to a specific United Way agency on an enclosed listed, or to a qualified agency that does not currently receive United Way funds. Donations may be made by cash, check, credit card, payroll deduction or billing.

For those unable to contribute money, the United Way also maintains a Voluntary Action Center (phone 422-6775) to link agencies with those who want to volunteer their time. There is also an inquiry line (422-6899) that provides information about the United Way and the agencies it serves, and the First Call for Help (800-231-4377) that provides those in need of assistance with referrals to the appropriate services.

A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 8).

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