United Way kicks off its 2002 campaign

— Ten-year-old Zach Valicenti's small frame was dwarfed by the large red and white barometer that stood in the county courthouse yard on Tuesday afternoon.

Valicenti was one of several Boy and Girl Scouts who posed for a picture by the big barometer to help kick off the United Way's 2002 campaign.

"We came here to help out," he said.

United Way volunteers are hoping the communities of Routt County will do their part to raise the red in its barometer by pledging toward next year's $300,000 goal.

While the children had to return to school, the barometer will remain on the courthouse lawn as a reminder of communities' need in Routt County, said Millie Beall, United Way executive director.

"We wanted to make our presence known here today," Beall said.

The Routt County United Way is the only nonprofit organization in Routt County whose sole purpose is to raise funds for the health and human services needs of Routt County residents.

The 2001 campaign raised more than $284,500, and Beall and other board members are hoping to top that amount this year.

"We feel confident that we can reach this year's goal because people have always given when needed," Campaign Director Don Alperti said.

Alperti told the small crowd gathered on the front lawn that he was impressed by United Way's commitment to give every dime back to the county.

Before he moved to Steamboat Springs, Alperti said he volunteered for a United Way chapter in New Jersey.

"It was so big you got lost," Alperti said. "Here you know exactly where the money is going. The really neat thing about the campaign is that the money stays here."

Beall said she is excited to start fresh with a new campaign. Last year she was hired after the kickoff of the 2001 campaign.

In light of last Tuesday's terrorist attacks, the need for funding will be more critical because federal dollars could potentially be diverted to relief efforts in New York City and Washington, D.C., she said.

"Based on the events of last week, we will be more responsible for ourselves at the local level," Beall said. "Federal funding might be going other ways."

Routt County United Way supports 23 local agencies and several human services programs in the county.

Beall said the United Way's annual goal will continue to grow as more people move to the area and increase the demand on health and human services.

"So far everyone in the community has stepped up each year," she said. "As our community grows, so do the needs."

Steamboat Springs native and sports commentator Verne Lundquist will serve as this year's spokesman for Routt County United Way.

Lundquist was unable to return to Steamboat Springs for Tuesday's kickoff due to limited air travel after the attack on New York City and the Pentagon.

From his hotel room in Atlanta, Lundquist said he was disappointed he could not be at home, but he was eager to begin work on the campaign. He and his wife have been looking for the chance to contribute to the work in Routt County.

"It will give us an opportunity to give back to the community," he said. "I'm going to make every effort to promote this great organization."

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