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United Way Sends Out 911 for Help

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The organization is facing a $400,000 deficit. The organization is facing a $400,000 deficit.

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- Tough financial times are affecting a Norman non-profit organization. The local United Way is facing a several hundred thousand dollar shortfall.

The organization is asking the city's residents to help rescue them.

The United Way of Norman set a $2.1 million goal for its fall 2008 fund drive. That was thought to be a realistic goal. That was before the recession hit. And now United Way is facing a $400,000 deficit. The executive director of the Norman United Way says that means hard times for its 30 member agencies.

"The agencies that we fund that are experiencing their own challenges financially right now, that are seeing the needs for their services increase are facing a likely decrease in funding from us," Kristin Collins with the United Way of Norman said.

One of those agencies is Meals on Wheels of Norman. It delivers about 300 meals daily. The number of deliveries is up 20 percent in the last three years.

Meanwhile, the Helpline at United Way is busy. About a dozen calls come in daily from people at their wit's end.

"I just had a lady call in a few minutes ago though the agencies for three weeks because nobody has any funding, she came back here because most of her parents have passed away, so she has no family, no friends, no resources," Deanna Davidson with the United Way of Norman said.

To close the deficit for Meals on Wheels and the other agencies, the United Way is sending out what it describes as a 911 call to the citizens of Norman.

"We're asking everybody in the community to give $9.11 to the United Way, one-time gift," Jed Dembowski with the United Way of Norman said. "That's the cost of a lunch. For the cost of a lunch you can come, you can make sure that your friends, your family; your neighbors get the help that they need."

United Way estimates that if 43,000 Norman residents donated an extra $9.11, the $400,000 deficit would be wiped out and the agencies funded. Some people dropped by Monday and have made donations larger than that. The agency believes that hard times will never make Norman citizens hard-hearted.

Learn more and help out at The United Way of Norman.

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