Our Opinion: Community United Ways enjoy autonomy

A recent change by a neighboring United Way provides an opportunity not only to clarify potential confusion, but to emphasis the autonomy of area United Way chapters.

The United Way of Central Missouri has made no recent alterations to the 25 partner agencies and programs it helps fund. Through its office located in Jefferson City, the chapter serves Cole, Osage, Miller, Moniteau and southern Callaway counties.

Conversely, changes have been made by the Heart of Missouri United Way, which serves the Columbia area. The Columbia-based chapter recently decided to eliminate funding for seven agencies and begin assisting seven others. Among the agencies cut were Boy Scouts of America Great Rivers Council, Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland and Red Cross Heart of Missouri.

The distinction is important, and it reinforces the autonomy of each United Way chapter.

Nearly 1,800 community-based United Way chapters in 45 countries and territories form the network known as United Way Worldwide.

Affiliation with United Way Worldwide provides a range of resources, including branding, use of the logo and national advertising.

But, each chapter remains independent, according to Ann Bax, president of our United Way of Central Missouri.

“We are governed by a local board,” she said, “which determines priorities, policies and allocations to partner agencies.”

In the Jefferson City-based chapter, volunteers begin the fund allocation process in February. In May, the volunteer board finalizes the budget for the upcoming year.

A key to United Way’s continued support is its tradition of local people helping local people.

Local volunteers who serve in decision-making positions must monitor the pulse of the community they serve and response accordingly.

Fulfilling that responsibility is what keeps United Way relevant, vibrant and responsive to community needs.

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