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EDITORIAL: Tough economy exacerbates charities' needs

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IBJ Editorial

Recent economic times have been tough on many Americans. But those who already were suffering most often have taken the hardest blows.

A stream of news reports in recent days has hammered home that point.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 44 million Americans—and more than 1 million people in Indiana—lived in poverty last year.

Those are big numbers—and are all the more striking when you consider the low bar the government sets for defining poverty. It says a family of four is impoverished only if it earns less than $22,050.

The proportion of Indiana residents living in poverty jumped from 12.9 percent in 2008 to an estimated 16.1 percent last year. Nationally, the rate rose to 14 percent—the highest in 15 years.

Another study, by the College Board, found the gap widening between those earning a college degree and those with only a high school diploma. The median earnings of full-time workers with bachelor’s degrees was $55,700 in 2008—$21,900 more than those with just high school diplomas.

Things are tough all over, of course. And many white- collar professionals who’ve lost jobs during the recession are working for less money now, if they’ve found new employment at all.

But the data about society’s most vulnerable are worth pondering as United Way of Central Indiana rolls out its annual fundraising campaign.

It’s hard to imagine a charitable organization better suited for these times. “United Way of Central Indiana helps sustain vital human services for those who need help most while reducing such needs for future generations,” its mission statement reads.

United Way sets priorities based on its own independent research and provides support to more than 100 human-service agencies in Indianapolis and five other counties.

And it’s one efficient organization. That’s partly because, since 1998, UWCI has been able to offset a portion of its fundraising and overhead costs by using earnings on an endowment created with a $50 million gift from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Indianapolis has many other charitable organizations also worthy of support, of course. But donors can’t be experts on everything. United Way doesn’t just ferret out human-service organizations most deserving of support. It holds them accountable, ensuring they use the grants they receive well.

As bleak as the economy has been in recent years, many residents of central Indiana still have good jobs with solid incomes. But the region never will reach its potential if it is allowed to become a two-tiered community of haves and have-nots.

We urge residents to give what they can to help United Way reach its goal of $41 million—$2.2 million more than last year’s campaign raised. It’s an ambitious goal in these difficult times. Let’s help United Way achieve it.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.

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