Economists may say the recession is behind us, but for those in tough economic circumstances it doesn’t exactly feel like things are getting better. Oregon still tops many of its neighbors in the number of children who go to bed hungry each night. High unemployment rates, foreclosures and a looming state deficit are all enough to keep many awake at night.
A number of Oregon nonprofits are increasingly dependent on direct donations to survive, and once again, the Oregon State University community has the chance to donate funds to a number of those organizations through the annual Charitable Fund Drive. Each OSU employee should have received a packet detailing the list of organizations and how to make a donation. This year, the format of the fund drive packet was changed, allowing for customized printing, saving close to $2,000 and reducing the amount of paper used for the annual mailing.
The drive provides people the ability to donate funds to the organizations they choose, selected from a long list of eligible nonprofits. And some, like ones listed below, have direct connection to the university, either because they take place on campus or because OSU faculty, staff and students are involved in the programs.
Among the organizations to choose from is IMPACT (Individualized Movement and Physical Activity for Children Today). IMPACT is a physical activity program for children, youth, and young adults with special needs, based on the Oregon State campus and operated by OSU faculty and students. Around 85 children aged 6 months to 21 years, divided by age group, are engaged in physical activities, from swimming to dancing.
The program provides one-on-one attention to children, who have been referred to IMPACT by physicians, teachers and family members. Specially trained OSU undergraduate and graduate students work with clients to help improve motor skills, provide socialization and have fun. OSU students benefit by gaining experience working with children who have special needs.
“The IMPACT program is a tremendous opportunity to engage students in meaningful community service and to get hands-on experience teaching children with disabilities,” said Jeff McCubbin, director of the IMPACT program and an associate dean with the College of Health and Human Sciences. “For many of our student volunteers who come from many academic areas such as Exercise Science, Education or Human Service, working in IMPACT is directly related to future employment opportunities. For others who value giving back to the community, this opportunity creates a fun way to interact with kids.”
The program is so popular that there is typically a waiting list, and families are charged a nominal fee to participate. Children in the program come from all around the Willamette Valley, including McMinnville and Sweet Home. The program has also expanded into IMPACT for Life, which takes OSU mentors out into the Corvallis community.
Benton Habitat for Humanity is another of the many local organizations that could benefit from this year’s fund drive. In the last five years, they’ve built seven homes for families in need in the county, and two more are currently under way. Bettina Schempf, executive director for Benton Habitat, said the organization already has many OSU connections.
“We have many current and past members of OSU on our board of directors,” Schempf said. OSU students volunteer and intern at the ReStore, on Habitat construction sites and in the office. Faculty have served as family mentors and on Habitat committees. OSU has also provided Habitat with translation and money management services in the past.
Students, faculty and staff also donate and shop at the ReStore, and students sometimes help Habitat raise money at various events. Additionally, Benton Habitat benefits from the expertise on campus.
“We are currently working with Ken Funk and David Kim from the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering on a wood waste processing project – the project will help us turn costly waste into an income stream,” Schempf said.
Currently the organization is in need of funding for the upfront cost of building new homes, including the purchase of land, permits, and construction materials. For every hour volunteered on a house, Benton Habitat needs to raise $20 for the materials used, as well as infrastructure and other costs. In the past, Habitat built an average of 1.2 houses each year, but recently have increased that to two to three houses a year.
Because families make payments on their mortgages, that money is used to pay some of the cost of the new homes, meaning donations not only help build one house, but create a legacy that lasts into future homes.
Oregon State’s workplace fund drive is the largest campaign for the United Way of Benton County. Last year Oregon State employees donated $70,923 to United Way, more than any other employer in the county.
“OSU has the biggest footprint in Benton County, and they are a huge part of our campaign,” said Dawson Officer, director of resource development for United Way of Benton County.
Even so, less than 7 percent of OSU employees contributed to the Charitable Fund Drive last year, while the University of Oregon contributed double what OSU raised. Officer said this year he’s hoping to increase the number of participants at Oregon State, and says even a small amount could make a huge difference.
United Way dollars support 31 programs at almost 25 agencies, mainly through grants, as well as organizing the annual Day of Caring and providing needs assessment to determine the greatest areas of community need, such as food and housing.
If every full-time OSU employee donated $10 a month to the Charitable Fund Drive (that’s a $120 annual contribution), the drive could raise more than $500,000 dollars.
“Many people think that their donation won’t count, but it really adds up,” Officer said.
Donations to the Charitable Fund Drive are being accepted on-line through Jan. 31. To make your contribution, go to http://oregonstate.edu/charitablefunddrive/. Donations can be parceled out over a 12-month period and can be automatically deducted from your paycheck.
~ Theresa Hogue