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Keeping up with care
United Way grateful for community's generosity
The Place 1 es
Elba Montalvo, right, carries items to be distributed Thursday as Ashley Deckard takes food from shelves in the pantry at The Place of Forsyth, a United Way agency. - photo by Emily Saunders
At a glance
Here's a breakdown of 2008 United Way funding by impact area:

* Substance abuse/mental health/domestic violence services: Abba House; Domestic Violence Task Force; Forsyth County Drug Court; Forsyth County DUI Court; Forsyth County Family Haven; Hope House; NOA; No Longer Bound; Rape Response
Total: $183,845

* Services for citizens with special needs: Camp Kool Kids; Challenged Child & Friends; Cumming Civitan Club -- matching grant for special needs; Forsyth County Disability Coalition; Forsyth County Schools -- Special Education Department, Special Olympics and Discovery and CTI programs; Grayson’s Gift
Total: $98,416

* Promoting self-sufficiency/strengthening families and seniors: AgeWell Forsyth; Avita Community Partners; Cumming First United Methodist Church -- Thanksgiving dinner; DC Family Assistance (St. Vincent dePaul); Family Connection; Garden of Empowerment; Habitat for Humanity; Literacy programs -- READ & CLCP; Senior Expo; The Place; Whispering Hope
Total: $349,335

Strength-based support services for children and youth: 4-H; Born Learning; Boy Scouts; Credit Recovery; Forsyth County Juvenile Court; Girl Scouts; Girls on the Run; Imagination Library; L.A.M.P; Mentor Me North Georgia; Youth Leadership Forsyth
Total: $278,657

Promoting community health, safety, leadership, information and referral and nonprofit education: 211; American Red Cross; Computers for Nonprofits; Georgia Highlands Medical Center; LEADER; Leadership Forsyth; Nonprofit seminars
Total: $215,090

Therapeutic services for at-risk children and youth: CASA; Children’s Center for Hope & Healing; Child Advocacy Center; Jesse’s House
Total: $189,365

Total: $1,314,708

Source: United Way of Forsyth County

Despite difficult economic conditions, the United Way of Forsyth County continues to keep doing what it does best -- helping those in need.

Ruth Goode, executive director, said 2008 was a mixed year for the agency.

"It was a good year for us in terms of accomodating needs and getting funds to the most critical areas," she said. "We gave out more funds in 2008 than we ever have.

"Our '09 campaign was held during the fall, and although we didn't quite reach our goal, we still had a very good year considering the economy we were in and are still in."

Goode said the poor state of the economy is obvious in her field. Many who were faithful donors up until last year found themselves on the other end of the spectrum in '08.

"So many people had their hours cut or lost jobs, a lot of our donors are on the other end now, needing help themselves," she said.

She added that United Way saw a huge increase last year in dollars given out to help people meet the most basic of needs, paying housing and utility costs.

"Those [areas] were enormous this [past] year," she said. "We literally had hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in those two areas."

On the upside, however, Goode said many donors continued to be faithful in their giving, some even "dramatically" increasing their efforts.

"There's a lot of people out there who have really stepped it up and increased their level of contributions because they knew they were better off than a lot of others," she said, adding that the agency has also seen many new donors.

"It has been especially encouraging that new people have stepped up to the plate."

In addition to donors, Goode also attributed the continued success of United Way to the organization's volunteer board.

Goode noted that during more prosperous years, the board "acted very responsibly" in setting aside reserve funding.

"They always knew [during better years] this can't last forever, we will have a rainy day," Goode said. "They acted very responsibly and therefore we're able to continue to meet needs in the community now that times aren't quite as good."

In addition to meeting critical needs, the organization was able to launch several new programs last year, including the Born Learning Program, which provides educational materials to new mothers at Northside-Hospital Forsyth.

The agency also started Fixing Up Forsyth, which helps seniors and low-income families make needed home repairs. And it continued funding of a program started in late 2007, the Imagination Library, which provides a monthly book to children from birth to age 5.

New community impact focus groups formed to bring people  together to discuss community needs such as dental health for children, mental health, services for special needs populations and transportation issues.

"It's not always about money. Sometimes it's about bringing people together to the table so they can find solutions on their own," Goode said. "That can be very powerful.

"Luckily, we have lots of good people in Forsyth who are very generous."