COURTESY OF ERIC FEJERAM
Health screenings. Senior citizen meal delivery. Childcare.
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
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,”
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
Some of the work United Way has done outside of fundraising
includes partnering with Better Health in Spokane to see if families qualified
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
Collins said that every year they present United Way with
what they would like help funding, and United Way helps them raise it from
“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
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.