Charitable donations down this year for United Way

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The tough economy has impacted charitable giving in the Heartland. 
The United Way of Southeast Missouri revealed total contributions for its campaign that runs from August through March at an annual luncheon Thursday.  
The total fell short of the goal, but even though giving may be down, the need is still there.
It was a celebration of giving.
"They've made us very proud with their contributions and they're support," said Nancy Jernigan, executive director of the United Way of Southeast Missouri, speaking about supporters.
The United Way provides funding for a variety of charities, but this year, they fell nearly $100,000 short of their fundraising goal of nearly $1.275 million. 
"Even more so than this bigger economic issue, I think it was the gasoline prices," Jernigan said of the reason donations were less this year.

She says even though the shortfall is less than 10 percent of their goal, it will cause the agency to focus more on their three main areas -- education, income, and health to make the greatest community impact with the dollars they have. 

"Our allocations committee and our board are going to have some really tough decisions to make," Jernigan said.
The American Red Cross and Salvation Army both receive funding from the United Way. 
"They support our emergency services, our response services here in the local area helping people who have lost their home to a fire and also in times of disasters and a large part of that goes to our training of volunteers that we rely so heavily on so that we can respond here locally in our community," said Cheryl Klueppel, executive director of the Southeast Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross.  
Major Beth Stillwell with the Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau says 20 percent of their budget comes from the United Way.  While donations for the Salvation Army remain steady, Major Stillwell says the need has risen.
"We're seeing a lot of new people in Salvation Army that comes in for basic needs," Stillwell said.  "They're juggling their budget from 'Do I pay the rent? Do I pay the utility bill this month  or do I feed the kids this month?'"
Even though the economy has hit everyone hard, the agencies say they will continue to provide help to those in need.
"We're going to be there no matter what," Stillwell said.  "The Salvation Army, it's doors never close.  The United Way is always there so no matter what somehow we'll meet the needs." 
The economy has forced the United Way to get a little creative with its fundraising this past year, including the first local online campaign.