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United Way of SLO County turns 50

The charity readjusts its focus



Marching forward in its mission of "improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of the community," the SLO County branch of United Way is celebrating its semicentennial anniversary.

"As cuts in the state and federal budget take hold, there'll be more of a reliance on the private sector to step up and fill the void," said Rick London, the chief executive officer of United Way in SLO County. "Lots of people are already giving, but many more of them aren't, and it's these people who we need to inspire to give, advocate, and volunteer."


The United Way, which focuses on education, health, and income as the three "building blocks to a good life," is almost entirely funded through private donations. The organization in turn funds agencies devoted to health and human services. 

United Way is working to bring new programs to SLO County, including the Born Learning program, which emphasizes learning from birth and that parents are the best teachers. United Way has also embarked on a holiday campaign in partnership with Old Navy and Target to distribute display Christmas trees to needy families.

As the economy has become dire, the United Way has had a sharp decline in donations and the number of people in need has escalated. "Our system isn't able to save us all right now, so it's going to be up to us to save ourselves," observed London. "The economy is having a significant impact on the needs of the community, and we need to focus on the root cause of the local problems that we're able to address as a means of prevention."

By inspiring citizens to lead healthier lifestyles, the United Way believes personal choices can help solve many of the prominent problems facing society today, ranging from epidemics of obesity and diabetes to securing retirement income for seniors. The SLO County United Way is coordinating efforts among local charities to achieve greater efficiency in meeting client needs.

"By working together, we can get a lot more done to help those who're most vulnerable in our community," said London.

The United Way needs donations.  Call 541-1234 or visit

Intern Aaron Gaudette compiled this week's Strokes&Plugs.  Send your business news to [email protected].

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