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Support eroding

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United Way needs to change how the community sees it.

To the editor,

Thank you for your frank article [“Let’s find a way,” 02.18.04] in this week’s Philanthropy Journal.

As the director of a very small nonprofit, I am concerned about where we will be in a year or two if this trend in donations to Triangle United Way continues.

Triangle Reading Service is on United Way’s Seniors Community Care Team. We are the team with the lowest dollar funding in each county.

Why?  I think it is because people in the U.S. do not honor their seniors as other countries do.

My assistant is Vietnamese.  She has lived in the U.S. for 20-plus years, and is still amazed at the lack of respect that is given to elderly people in this country.

I feel that many people throughout the Triangle are acting like ostriches: Burying their heads in the sand when it comes to promoting services to the older population.

Here at Triangle Reading Service, we have a large cadre of volunteers who have retired. Without them, we would not be able to produce our daytime programming.

We also serve an overwhelming number of seniors.  During our last survey, taken in November 2003, most of our listeners were over the age of 60. The largest age group contacted for the telephone survey was between the ages of 70 and 79.

We estimate that we serve more than 4,000 people throughout our listening area, 17 counties stretching from Guilford on the west through Johnston on the east, north to the Virginia line and almost to Cumberland on the south.

This is only a small portion of the people who could use the service, but we take self referrals, and print impaired people tend to live in denial for a while before admitting they can no longer read newsprint.

If the support from Triangle United Way continues to erode, my board of directors may relinquish our allocation altogether. When the time I give to various Triangle United Way meetings is factored in, this is not the most cost effective way for Triangle Reading Service to get funding.

Again, thank you for pointing out what many of us in “the business” have been saying among ourselves.

Triangle United Way must find a way to fix the community’s perception of what it does.

Unless that happens, the folks living in the communities it serves will not be served.

Linda Ornt, director, Triangle Reading Service, Raleigh, N.C.

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