UI aims to raise $1 million for charity

URBANA – Even a donation of a few dollars to a charitable organization can make a difference.

That's the message the University of Illinois is sending its employees as it kicks off its annual Campus Charitable Fund Drive on Tuesday. Its goal this year is to raise $1 million.

"You may think, 'If I make a donation, big deal, I'm just one person,'" said Pam Voitik, director of campus parking and the campus liaison for the fund drive. "But if you participate with all these other people, it does make a big difference."

"Even though (employees) feel this year they may have to cut back a little bit, we want to reinforce that it will make a difference," said Cathy Rix, an administrative assistant for Facilities and Services, which oversees the fund drive. Rix helps run the fund drive and provides training for the section and unit leaders on campus, who distribute materials and collect donations.

To make the point that a donation of any size matters, the booklet for the fund drive includes examples of what a small donation can mean: a $10 donation can buy a stopwatch to time Special Olympics athletes; $1 per pay period, or $24 per year, supports diabetes risk tests for 2,500 people; and $10 per pay period, or $240 per year, will pay for more than one month's medication for a dialysis patient or buy a lightweight wheelchair for someone with muscular dystrophy.

The fund drive benefits 11 umbrella organizations and agencies, and employees specify where they want their donations to go.

Employees can either make a lump-sum payment or sign up for a payroll deduction and designate the amount to be taken out of their paychecks each month. Most employees make their contributions by payroll deduction.

The fund drive had a record year in 2001, raising $1.15 million in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Last year, when most employees did not receive raises, they donated $1.08 million, surpassing their $1 million goal.

The fund drive's advisory board decided not to increase that goal this year. The board decides on a goal by considering the salary base for UI employees and the percentage of the goal met the year before.

"With the budget cuts that have happened on campus and the layoffs that have happened on campus, we didn't think it would be appropriate to raise the goal any higher," Voitik said. "That's a pretty tall order, given today's economic situation."

Chancellor Nancy Cantor noted in her written message to the campus about the fund drive that "This month, as some of you face the shortfall that will come with an early paycheck, it is particularly difficult to ask you to share. And yet, our community needs us more than ever."

Another challenge for the campus this year is it will have less time to meet its goal. The fund drive will end on Nov. 14, about two weeks sooner than usual.

That's because the UI is phasing in a new computer system through its UI Integrate project. A new system for payroll will go into effect in late December, and the fund drive officials must provide information about payroll deductions for employees sooner than usual.

The fund drive will accept contributions past Nov. 14, but they won't be counted in the official campaign total.

Officials hope to increase participation in the drive by continuing some changes they made last year. They started individualized training for section and unit leaders in an attempt to provide more information and a greater opportunity to ask questions and share ideas.

Before its kickoff luncheon, the fund drive holds an agency fair with information booths for each of the organizations benefiting from the drive. For the second year, representatives of each organization will speak to campaign volunteers about what their agencies accomplish, in addition to manning the information booths.

"We got comments on how helpful that was to hear what the agencies did and how they supported the community," Voitik said.

Mike Haile of WDWS/WHMS radio is the community chairman of the fund drive. He'll emcee the Tuesday kickoff luncheon and the reports on the campaign's progress.

Voitik and Rix said they are optimistic about reaching the $1 million goal again this year.

"If you have something that is longstanding and has a strong reputation for meeting your goal, you always have support," Rix said.

The organizations that benefit from the Campus Charitable Fund Drive are: American Cancer Society; America's Charities; Black United Fund of Illinois; Community Health Charities of Illinois; Community Shares of Illinois; Earth Share of Illinois; Global Impact; Independent Charities of America; Special Olympics Illinois; United Negro College Fund; and United Way of Champaign County.

You can reach Jodi Heckel at (217) 351-5216 or via e-mail at jheckel@news-gazette.com.

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