Three local United Way affiliates have announced that they will be consolidating their operations starting with this fall's fundraising campaign.
The new agency, United Way of the Columbia Gorge, will serve the entire Gorge area--five counties on both sides of the Columbia River--extending from Stevenson and Cascade Locks in the west to Moro and Bickleton in the east.
While the idea of a regional United Way has been in the planning stages for some time, the consolidation of the organizations became official last Friday morning at a signing ceremony at the Hood River Inn on Friday. Representatives of the three agencies signed papers enacting the consolidation.
"When you leave here, you all three become one," said Erick Haynie of the law firm Perkins Coie, LLP, who handled the legal paperwork for the merger.
"This merging of the agencies would not have been possible without the donation of legal services by Erick," said Paul Blackburn, volunteer president of United Way of Hood River County.
"We are very excited to be able to offer our donors this increased efficiency," Blackburn said.
"By combining with the Klickitat/Skamania and Wasco County chapters, we can raise and distribute more money to where it is needed most. And we can do it with less effort."
The Dalles resident Marilyn Roth, president of the Mid-Columbia United Fund, concurred.
"Many of the agencies we fund operate on both sides of the river and throughout the Gorge," she noted. "By joining forces, we can increase efficiency and save the recipients' time."
Roth and Blackburn were joined at the signing table by Erin Anderson of Lyle, representing Klickitat-Skamania United Way.
The new United Way of the Columbia Gorge makes it possible for donors to specify what local area they would like funds allocated to, or to dedicate them to region-wide efforts, according to Blackburn.
He said the additional flexibility addresses some of the challenges facing the local agencies that United Way supports. While administrative operations will be streamlined, local volunteer United Way steering committees will still be responsible for fundraising, allocations, and events in their respective counties.
United Way of the Columbia Gorge is hoping to raise $200,000 this fall to benefit agencies in Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam counties in Oregon, and Klickitat and Skamania counties in Washington. For more information, contact the local United Way, firstname.lastname@example.org.