Mid-Michigan Charities Find Success Despite Scandals, Economy

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Scandals, the economy and tight budgets.

They all have an impact on how much money mid-Michigan charities can raise -- and how much good work they can do with it. A couple of local charities say they're doing well despite some obstacles.

With roughly a month and a half until the United Way fundraising season is over, local president Michael Brown says he's confident the Capital Area United Way will make its goal.

"It's a banner year for us," Brown said.

The group, headquartered locally in East Lansing, has raised roughly $5.4 million since last September. That's 98 percent of its $5.5 million goal.

"We're really on the rebound," Brown said.

Brown calls it a rebound because the group's goals and fundraising totals have been steadily declining since the local United Way embezzlement scandal in 2002 and 2003. Prior to the scandal, goals and fundraising totals approached $7 million.

Brown says he hopes this year, he can exceed last year's $5.8 million total.

"Given the challenge with Katrina, with the economy, it definitely shows we're going in the right direction," he said.

Officials with Eve's House, a Lansing shelter for victims of domestic violence, say they experience similar problems, particularly when it comes to the economy.

"People are digging into their pockets more deeply," Eve's House board chairwoman Ruth St. King said.

The shelter, like the United Way, is having fundraising success this year. Usually, donations fall off after Christmas. But not this year.

"We've noticed it on an annual basis. But this year there seems to be a lot of interest," St. King said.

It's a sign of success for this year. For the years to come, charitable groups point to uncertainty in public sector funding.

"Grant money is reduced substantially. We can't depend on it year to year," St. King said.

And funding from the private sector.

"We have to keep a close eye on the manufacturing industry. That's really the bread and butter of the United Way," Brown said.

Brown says despite problems for major manufacturers, a bright spot is the new GM Delta Township plant. He says every single worker at the plant contributes to the United Way.

The Capital Area United Way's annual fundraising campaign ends March 27.

-- in East Lansing, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.