Community Columns

Ciccarelli: Nonprofit groups aren't perfect, but they do good work

The title "professional beggar" might bother some, but it has become my calling. As chief executive officer of United Way, I beg for donations that will provide vital, often lifesaving services for people in our community.

If our organization does the begging well enough, those in desperate need will not have to beg. United Way of Stanislaus and the Mother Lode provides a unique opportunity for everyone to make a positive impact on so many lives. In 2007, the generous people of our communities helped more than 170,000 people in Stanislaus County. Decisions on how your donations are spent are made by more than 200 community volunteers -- people just like you. They meet monthly in five Community Impact Councils and on our 30-member board of directors.

Why should you listen to our pleas? Why support United Way?It's simple: If ever you are unfortunate enough to have a devastating house fire, those who arrive immediately after the firefighters will be from the American Red Cross. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer or any terminal disease, Community Hospice will help you and your family through this difficult time. If you have recently turned 18 and have been emancipated from foster care, the Center for Human Services will give you somewhere to turn other than the streets. If you or a loved one is the victim of domestic violence, Haven Women's Center can provide protection.

This list goes on: The Salvation Army provides food and shelter; Inter-Faith Ministries and Sierra Vista Child and Family Services give families support, and counseling to those abusing drugs; and the Parent Resource Center helps give children the lives they deserve by preventing abuse and neglect.

These are just eight examples of the incredible work being done by our 28 partner agencies. There are 20 more partner agencies that could provide examples just as poignant.

Recent articles in The Bee ( "YMCA in poor health: Benefactors wanted money to help needy or disabled kids," Nov. 4, Page A-1) have shown that nonprofits are not perfect. But please be assured the YMCA will continue to have the full support of the United Way and, I hope, of our entire community.

As president and CEO of the United Way of Stanislaus and the Mother Lode, part of my job is to be the faithful steward of money you donate to help in these efforts. I promise that my staff and I will honor this sacred trust.

I thank this wonderful community for the support and trust it has given the nonprofits that, in turn, have provided so much for so many. If you are watching from the sidelines and want to help, pick up the phone and call a nonprofit of your choice. If you need someone to help you find community resources, contact United Way's 2-1-1 Call Center and our operators will assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nonprofits are on the front lines every day, getting our hands dirty and doing the heavy lifting to provide services and social justice to those who otherwise would have no voice.

My first work with nonprofits started when I became executive director of Inter-Faith Ministries in 2000. In six years at Inter-Faith, we opened Redwood Family Center for women and children and the Santa Fe Project, an emergency winter shelter for families. Combined, they have provided life-changing assistance for hundreds.

Serving people also changed my life; the call you make might just change yours.

Reach Ciccarelli at 523-4562, ext. 100, or e-mail