United Way supports local outreach programs

Organization funds other nonprofits, strengthens local resources in Whitman County

Students+at+the+YMCA+after+school+program%2C+a+partners+with+United+Way+Whitman+County%2C+pose+for+a+photo.

COURTESY OF ERIC FEJERAM

Students at the YMCA after school program, a partners with United Way Whitman County, pose for a photo.

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen reporter

Health screenings. Senior citizen meal delivery. Child­care. Transportation.

These are a few of the ser­vices provided locally in part because of funding by United Way of Whitman County.

A local branch of the nation­al organization, United Way Whitman County is a nonprofit focused on strengthening com­munities through education, health and financial stability, according to the United Way website.

Eric Fejeran, director of United Way of Whitman Coun­ty, said three tenets

are the core of United Way’s goal, but those tenets aren’t necessarily the only deciding factors in the work United Way does throughout the county.

“We kind of act as the glue that holds communities to­gether,” he said.

Fejeran said United Way seeks to raise money for the community, fund local non­profits, build a network and bring light to important issues. United Way is currently part­nered and funds 12 nonprof­it agencies around Whitman County, Fejeran said, but they also occasionally partner with other groups.

Some of the work United Way has done outside of fund­raising includes partnering with Better Health in Spokane to see if families qualified for

Washington Apple Health, the state’s version of Medicaid, and connecting people to free financial tax services.

“This really isn’t a one-per­son job, and it’s not really an organization with an end goal,” Fejeran said.

Paige Collins, executive di­rector of the Council on Aging & Human Services (COA), said United Way has raised funds for them for years. United Way has helped them serve meals to senior citizens, fund their COAST transportation system, fund reconstruction and re­modeling at the Colfax Pantry building. The organization has even helped the COA purchase a big box truck so they could pick up food in Spokane and deliver it to pantries across Whitman Country.

Collins said that every year they present United Way with what they would like help funding, and United Way helps them raise it from there.

“We’re really quite happy that we have such a relationship with them, and

Eric as the new interim di­rector has been great to work with,” Collins said. “It’s been a huge asset for us.”

Kris Finch serves as vice president on the board of Unit­ed Way of Whitman County. She said she helps determine the budget, outreach in the community and helps commu­nicate with agencies.

“Our dollars help extend the 12 different agencies we con­tribute to, help

extend their efforts to reach their clients…we try to give as much as we can.” Finch said.

Fejeran said recently Unit­ed Way has tried moving away from how they used to raise money. The local branch is working toward raising money through small-dollar donations throughout the year, rather than a big campaign as they used to do in the past, he said.

“It’s about encouraging people to donate $10 a month which is sometimes … a cup of coffee or it’s your breakfast on your way to work or your way to class,” Fejeran said. “And that $10 compounded with five other people who are donating $10 a month really makes a dif­ference in providing services, hearing screenings and health screenings … childcare center or summer meals through the YMCA.”

Fejeran said that the nature of fundraising is changing, and he’s hoping to make United Way adapt. He said the pub­lic is becoming smarter about their money and wants to know more about where their money is going, which means United Way has to focus more on communication.

“We have to be 100 percent transparent with where our money goes,” Fejeran said.

He also said that United Way recently changed their name from United Way of Pullman to United Way of Whitman Coun­ty, to better represent the com­munity they serve.

Outside of United Way, Fe­jeran said people can help just by finding something they’re passionate about and working to make a difference.

“I feel personally that you’ll reach a point in your life where you’ll want to live for something beside yourself and whether it’s through United Way or some­thing else, find a pathway to give back to your community,” Fejeran said.