O.C. United Way donations increase

Orange County United Way, which serves nearly 100 nonprofit agencies from San Clemente to Seal Beach, saw a 43% jump in donations from the previous year at a time when the country is emerging from a recession, people are out of work and Sacramento has been cutting back, the organization said Tuesday.

The $25 million in donations to Orange County United Way, a nonprofit that works to help individuals and families climb out of economic difficulties, was raised in 2009-10 and represents a $7.5-million increase from the amount raised the previous year.

"We're trying to eliminate homelessness, and we're trying to invest more money by training people to become self-sufficient," said Ken Lickel, board member and former chairman for United Way. "This money is going to help everybody out tremendously."

The donations came from all of the traditional donor bases, including individuals, other organizations and annual workplace employee campaigns. There was also a large single gift to United Way's endowment fund, Lickel said.

According to United Way, the number of workplace donors grew by 10% this past year.

"Given the current economic climate, this says a lot about the people in Orange County," said Kathleen Freed, a spokeswoman for United Way. "They are incredibly generous."

The funds will be distributed to myriad human service and community-based organizations, among them the Boys and Girls Clubs in Orange County, the CSP Youth Shelter in Laguna Beach and Laura's House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence run by a nonprofit based in Ladera Ranch.

"United Way has been a huge benefit to our programs and our ability to provide shelter and services to victims of domestic violence, especially in light of state cutbacks," said Karen Stine, the contracts administrator who manages the grants for Laura's House, which was established in 1994.

Stine said the state has cut back $220,000 annually in human services money for Laura's House, and that impact was felt last July, when the cuts began.

United Way is giving the women and children's shelter $50,000.

Maria Chavez Wilcox, president and chief executive of Orange County United Way, said she was happy with the fundraising results, to say the least.

"The response … to help those less fortunate is nothing short of awe-inspiring," she said. "Their heartwarming generosity at a time of continued economic difficulty speaks volumes about their kindness and compassion."

To find out more about Orange County United Way, go to http://www.unitedwayoc.org.

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