United Way kicks off fundraising season

Published: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
When an area's youngest members go without - without early childhood education, without a stable family environment, without enough food to eat - it can affect the economic growth of the entire community.
That was the message Rob Grunewald of the Federal Reserve Bank brought to several hundred members of the North Central Florida community Thursday morning as the United Way kicked off its 2006-2007 campaign. This year's goal: to raise a record $3.8 million.
Grunewald conducts regional economic research and is the co-author of the policy paper, "Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return." He told Gainesville and Bradford County community leaders that the best way to improve the economic work force in an area is to invest in its children in their formative years.
"When children who are at risk show up at the kindergarten door, statistics show that they are less likely to do well in school, less likely to graduate from high school on time and are more likely to commit crime," Grunewald said.
The economist cited recent studies that look at what happens when a community provides youngsters who are at risk with a high-quality preschool or day care experience, with programs that support parenting in the home.
"Studies have examined the cost and return, and they've found that for every dollar invested, there is an economic return (to the community) of between four and 17 dollars," he said.
United Way of North Central Florida is looking for just such a return on the dollars that come in during its current campaign.
This year's campaign chairman is Tim Goldfarb, CEO of Shands HealthCare. Videotaped during a visit to Al'z Place, the Alzheimer's day care facility that is one of the agencies receiving United Way funding, Goldfarb announced that the campaign goal will be to raise $3.8 million.
As it did for the first time last year, the campaign will focus on the "Success by 6" community initiative, a collaboration between current and new child development resources to reduce the crime rate, teen pregnancy and welfare dependency and increase success in school.
"Investing in young children and their families is a very good way to make your campaign dollar go farther in building a strong community," Grunewald said.
Those who gathered at the Hilton hotel Thursday morning had expected to spend the day doing some hands-on community work, helping out at various agencies for the annual "Day of Caring."
That event was canceled when Tropical Storm Ernesto threatened to soak the area.
Karen Bricklemyer, president and CEO of United Way of North Central Florida said the "Day of Caring" would be rescheduled.
Diane Chun can be reached at 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

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