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As Need For United Way Services Grows, Funds Shrink

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The sour economy has hurt charitable giving, and Triangle United Way agencies are feeling that stress.

The organization's board met Friday morning to make drastic cuts in funding -- coming at a time when the needs for agency services are greatest.

It takes money to train and equip volunteer Hopeline operators like Chris Wise.

"Our job is to listen to members of our community who are in some sort of distress," Wise said.

Now, Hopeline must look for ways to save $42,000 this year.

The Triangle United Way is asking all member agencies in Wake County to cut 21 percent from their budgets. Hopeline board members say it's better than the bigger cuts that were on the table.

"It's certainly better than 46, 47 percent, which would have put a lot of agencies out of business," said Hopeline board member Stephanie Mendell.

Orange County agencies must cut 9 percent. Durham County members will get 6 percent more this year. It's all based on the fundraising totals in each area.

Each agency may fare better or worse when volunteers decide how to distribute money from the Triangle United Way's Community Care fund.

Triangle United Way is also cutting its administrative budget by $470,000 for the year 2003. That follows a $260,000 budget cut in 2002.

But planning for the worst means the unthinkable at Hopeline. Cutting caller programs.

"To cut them is to leave a gap in services," said Hopeline executive director Gail Butskey.

Butskey says she'll also have to look at cutting paid staff positions.

Their biggest concern is at the other end of each call.

"It's not about the United Way," Mendell said. "It's about the invidual agencies. It's about -- there's a tremendous need in this community."

It's a need that grows as budgets shrink.


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