PENDLETON - While last year's contributions to The Salvation Army slightly surpassed those of the year before, the United Way finds itself $87,000 short of funding requests.

Donations for The Salvation Army of Pendleton in 2005 totaled $57,421 and last year's have come to $57,616.

The Salvation Army's Capt. Don Sheppard said two people - one from Hermiston and another from Pendleton - contributed significant donations during the last week of December.

"Because of those two, we went over by a couple of hundred dollars," Sheppard said.

Sheppard said he didn't want to identify the donors, but he thanked the people of Umatilla County and the towns therein for "all their gracious giving."

But the United Way of Umatilla and Morrow Counties hasn't fared as well.

The charitable organization has received 23 requests for the $235,000 it received in 2006. But Executive Director Kricket Nicholson said it will fall about $87,000 short of being able to fully fund those requests.

"We just have to not fund them as much, so they have to go other places looking for the money to make up that difference," she said.

Further, the money raised last year is down $118,000 from 2005, and contributions then were $63,000 short of requests for funds.

Nicholson, who took over as the executive director on Oct. 1, 2006, said while she is still learning the ropes, there are a number of factors contributing to the decline in contributions.

She said a piece of the problem is the number of businesses that are able to give, while another is that some businesses that have been holding United Way campaigns for years have grown complacent and assume employees will give. Sometimes those businesses even decline United Way presentations on how to give and what it does with the money.

Nicholson said those presentations and speaking with people make a difference.

"It makes it real ... it makes it more personal and more real to them," she said.

Another factor contributing to the shortfall is a change in attitudes, such as people feeling that responding to disaster relief is more important than responding to everyday hunger and homelessness in our own community.

Nicholson said people who want to give still can. And some businesses even match employees who give on a dollar-for-dollar basis, or on a 50-cent-for-dollar basis.

Nicholson said the United Way plans to address the shortfalls and will hold a planning session in the spring.

"I think there are several things we can do differently next year," she said.

For example, Nicholson said the organization will hold a "kick off" for the next campaign, something that used to happen, but has faded out of practice.

For more information about contributing to the United Way, call Nicholson at 276-2661.

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