State Workers

Combined Fund Drive: State workers begin push

About 50 enthusiastic state workers in red shirts kicked off the state's yearly Combined Fund Drive on Tuesday at the Capitol, hoping to raise about $6 million in pledges for charities in 2009.

“I have contributed ever since I starting working at the state,” said Carole Lawton, who works for the Department of Social and Health Services’ Health Recovery Services Administration.

Lawton and Gary Farrier, another HRSA worker, helped with setting up red balloons for a rally on the Capitol steps, and they later stood shoulder-to-shoulder with others in a heart-shaped formation. Both are hopeful that state workers dig a little deeper this year to help out those who aren’t so lucky to have jobs – and in their own cases, to donate to animal welfare groups, too.

People statewide are asked to contribute $1 per pay period to the Combined Fund Drive, which uses automatic payroll deductions, so the drive can reach its goal, Farrier said. Combined Fund Drive program manager Randy Ryan said the goal is slightly larger than last year’s record $5.8 million, and he is hopeful that Washington can again deliver.

Washington’s population ranks No. 11 among the states, but the state workers’ donations rank No. 4, after New York, California and Texas, he said.

Signup for automatic donations from paychecks began Tuesday and continues into mid-December. Workers can give to as many as 3,800 charitable groups around the world, including local organizations such as United Way and its members, the Thurston County Food Bank, the Union Gospel Mission, the Crisis Pregnancy Center, Planned Parenthood, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

The drive comes at a difficult time for food banks and other local charitable groups, which are squeezed by rising demand for help at a time when donors also are cash-strapped. Pam Toal of the United Way of Thurston County said there is more need of help for member organizations that assist people with issues related to hunger, homelessness and health care.

Toal said her organization raised nearly $1.3 million last year, short of its $1.4 million goal. The Combined Fund Drive accounted for about $118,000 of that total as workers dedicated or earmarked their payroll deductions for member organizations, and the money passed through United Way.

But last year’s fund drive sent less to United Way than the $200,000 her agency typically has received, Toal said.

That lower amount reflects a shift in recent years to donations to environmental groups and to international aid groups, Ryan said. That is why fund organizers have been emphasizing the need at local charities this year.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688