Faces changing at United Way | TheUnion.com

Faces changing at United Way

Two outgoing United Way of Nevada County board members are excited for the charity’s future despite continuing contribution setbacks.

Board members Sophia Meyer and Betty Stiving said the local United Way is stabilizing after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. That catastrophe rerouted some local charitable contributions to New York City and created an economic climate locally that cut into payroll deduction gifts, they said.

In 2001, the local campaign brought in $330,000 for the year just before the terrorist attacks. The next two years brought in $245,000 and $240,000. This 2004 campaign will bring in about $200,000, according to George Olive, the local United Way’s executive director.

A lot of the recent dip had to do with another charity funds shift, this time to the victims of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami, Olive said.

“Our regular donors continued to give, but the dollars amount dropped.”

There are 23 entities that United Way gives to in Nevada County, with goals ranging from literacy to drug-abuse prevention.

Both Meyer and Stiving said the area has loyal contributors, so they are not panicking about recent diminished returns.

“The hits are shared by others (nonprofits and charities) and aren’t unique to us,” Stiving said. “There’s a real hard core of contributors in the community.”

After 9/11, local business layoffs reduced the number of employees making automatic paycheck deductions, Stiving said. “We were losing professionals, engineers, people who were substantial contributors.”

Economic uncertainty also limited donations.

“People weren’t secure with the future and held onto their money,” Meyer said.

That is when the local chapter decided to do more outreach in the community through advertising and media contacts, Meyer said. “If we wanted to grow, we had to have new ways of getting to the community.”

“The other side of the coin was maintaining the budget. We’ve cut costs,” Stiving said. “I’m excited for the future because of the talent of the board and the generosity of the community.”

Bylaws demand both step down after six consecutive years on the board. Olive said they will be missed.

“In Sophia, we lose clear leadership,” Olive said. “There’s nothing more organized than an engineer, and she kept us moving forward a step at a time.”

Stiving “has a deep understanding of what United Way is supposed to do; she knows the history, changes, the lingo,” Olive said. “She knew the way to talk to a new business we wanted a relationship with.”

Both said they leave their positions with a greater understanding of the county’s giving spirit.

“This community survives on its volunteer base,” Stiving said. “For me, it’s not what I get, but what I give back.”

Bios in brief

Some information about the United Way’s outgoing board members:

Sophia Meyer

The engineer and former Grass Valley Group employee is a Nevada Union High School graduate and mother of two. Meyer is currently the office manager for Sybill Shane Studios and coaches soccer at Nevada Union and at the competitive club level. Her knowledge of software and ability to train has saved the local United Way thousands of dollars. She has been on the board since 1999.

Betty Stiving

The manager of both Bank of the West branches in Grass Valley and a mother of five, Stiving has a child serving in Iraq. She is on the board with Soroptimist International of Grass Valley and the Nevada County Business Association. Stiving was instrumental in cutting United Way’s annual costs from $177,000 to $98,000 from 2003 to 2004. She has served several stints on the board since 1986, the latest since 1999.

Source: United Way of Nevada County

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