Stacy upbeat for United Way campaign

When Bill Stacy talks about "the Chattanooga way," he refers to the way in which many people play a part in getting things done in and around the Scenic City.

The former chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and president of Baylor School said his slogan is also a perfect fit for his new role as chairman of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga's 2010 community campaign.

"All of us can take a little responsibility to improve the lives of each other," Stacy said.

The organization's 89th community campaign will kick off Tuesday at a joint noon meeting of the downtown Rotary and Kiwanis clubs at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

Stacy already has been on the job for weeks, having made calls on the chief executive officers of 50 top area companies.

UNITED WAY GIVINGOver the last 21 years, the United Way of Greater Chattanooga has raised its campaign intake from $9,515,615 in 1989 to $11,635,723 in 2009, an increase of 22.3 percent. Over that time, the United States cost of living increased 73.1 percent.YEAR-BY-YEAR CAMPAIGN TOTALS* 1989: $9,515,615* 1990: $10,022,294* 1991: $10,035,037* 1992: $10,206,409* 1993: $10,006,290* 1994: $10,211,638* 1995: $10,242,105* 1996: $10,012,454* 1997: $10,004,000* 1998: $10,000,000* 1999: $11,545,624* 2000: $11,605,322* 2001: $11,007,919* 2002: $10,751,549* 2003: $11,001,230* 2004: $11,220,201* 2005: $11,271,419* 2006: $11,676,205* 2007: $11,902,911* 2008: $11,771,018* 2009: $11,635,723Source: United Way of Greater Chattanooga

"I came out of those CEO meetings" with a positive outlook "for the whole market of Chattanooga" and for their "strong support of helping their fellow citizens," he said.

In general, Stacy said, while all 50 of the CEOs he met with were "gracious," only two said they weren't sure how the economic market would shake out for them and how that would affect their contributions to United Way. The rest, he said, don't feel there is another precipitous financial cliff ahead and about half saw things getting a little better.

The organization will reveal its goal for the 2010 campaign at Tuesday's meeting. Last year, despite the poor economy, the campaign collected $11,635,723, the fourth highest total in its history. Its high was $11,902,911 in 2007.

Brent Taylor, vice president of resource development for the local United Way, accompanied the campaign chairman on the calls and was delighted with what they heard.

"I didn't know (what would happen)," he said. "I was thinking (they would anticipate) maybe a kind of flat type year, but it hasn't been that way. They were very upbeat."

Bonnie Currey, president and chief executive officer at The Aim Center, an agency that provides consumer-driven psychiatric rehabilitation services, said that, without United Way money, about half her client base could not be served.

"One of the primary things is that, of the people who we serve with mental illness, only 58 percent have insurance," she said. "For the other 42 percent, we rely on support from United Way and private donations and private foundations. It makes a huge difference."

Stacy said he learned "the Chattanooga way" at UTC and Baylor, where "everybody sits down to do visioning, not just one segment."

"Anybody with an idea was respected, and some got into the final plan," he said. "No one segment of the community was frozen out or made all the decisions."

The organization's Building Stable Lives Pilot Project in East Lake, which involves a group of about 80 families who needed employment and had housing, transportation and utility requirements, is an example of the same thinking, he said.

Instead of creating a new agency, Stacy said, the organization used various existing agencies to provide assistance. Today, he said, members of 70 percent of the families have sustained employment.

"I've been so impressed," he said. "They learn to fish instead of (somebody) handing somebody a fish."

Taylor said individual fundraising campaigns are already under way at several companies and that the United Way is making time flexibility adjustments with various companies to make their campaigns easier. In addition, even more campaigns will be run online this fall.

"We're trying to accommodate," he said.

For Stacy, the job as campaign chairman is similar to the marketing he did at UTC and Baylor, he said.

He tells people, for example, that the United Way is offering them a chance to invest in giving a child a new book every month or having a health screening. He also reminds them the organization serves 190,000 people, he said.

"(The campaign is about) the great generosity of Chattanooga," Stacy said. "I will not be raising money. I will be offering them an opportunity to invest. This is a community with lots of stalwarts who taught us how to do it."

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