Community Service a Labor of Love for United Way Volunteers

November 15, 2008  //  United Way

Through nearly nine years of involvement as a volunteer with the local United Way, Sue Wilkinson has gone from being a member of the Early Childhood Team to currently serving as acting president of the United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County board of directors.

Her lengthy tenure as a United Way volunteer has also included service as a team leader, and chair of all team leaders. The latter position also involved a seat on the United Way board of directors.

She chose to get involved with the United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County through her employment at Ameritas, where she is vice president of planning. As a Certified Public Accountant, she chose to lend her financial expertise to the campaign’s fund distribution process.

The community-minded volunteer remains passionate about United Way and its services such as helping underprivileged kids get the help they need to succeed in life, and to make sure those donated dollars feed the hungry and find shelter for the homeless.

As acting board chair she is no longer directly involved with the fund distribution area but does represent the board on the Community Impact Committee.

The many behind-the-scenes volunteers of the United Way say their work is a labor of love. In the case of Sue Wilkinson, the volunteer work she has done in the past has led to a far greater understanding of the problems our community faces.

“We all hear occasional reports of domestic violence and hunger problems in Lincoln, but most people have no idea that Lincoln has the needs that it does,” she said. “I was as surprised as anyone to discover the severity of these problems.”

In the past, Sue has helped ensure the campaign dollars are allocated prudently.

“We continue to see a widening gap between the requests we receive and the money we have to give.”

United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County appreciates its many volunteers, including the audit team and the 14-member Community Impact Committee, said Robin Mahoney, the United Way’s senior director of fund distribution and community planning

“As a volunteer, Sue is a great example of someone who demonstrates great passion in the interest of improving the community in which she lives,” said Robin.

Last year, the Community Impact Committee met several times and eventually identified priorities for the United Way-funded focus areas. The two general areas targeted for funding were investing in children, making sure they’re ready to enter and succeed in school, and assisting those in crisis.

Under the general area of preparing young children, the committee recommended giving priority to programs that provided early care, ensuring that kids get the academic help they need, and through mentoring. Priorities under the general heading of helping those in crisis were programs that deal with alleviating hunger, providing emergency and transitional shelter, helping victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and coming to the aid of people affected by natural disasters.

“The complexity of the issues brought forward is challenging,” said Robin. “There may be no food in the same house where there’s domestic abuse, for example.”

Fund Distribution volunteers will be conducting site visits for four months beginning in December, getting a first-hand look at the programs approved for funding. The Community Impact Committee voted last year to set up a two-year funding cycle for all agencies selected to receive United Way dollars.

“The committee decided not to fund new programs, simply because of the uncertainty associated with starting a new program,” said Sue.

“Donors seem to prefer (funding for) established programs and outcomes.”

Robin added, “With dollars so limited, we can’t run the risk of funding programs without proven data.”

It’s not too late to contribute to the United Way campaign.

Donations may also be sent to United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County, 206 South 13th Street, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68508.

The United Way Community Campaign is held in partnership with Community Health Charities of Nebraska.