Non-Profits Fight Budget Crunch

United Way of Tyler/Smith County launched its annual "Pacesetters Kickoff" race Wednesday morning. The event marks the beginning of several corporate fund raisers that will benefit the charitable organization.

Companies involved in the race sent employees for a run in Downtown Tyler, wearing their business suits and sneakers. The race signifies the company's desire to set the pace for United Way's official fundraiser, which starts Sept. 4.

In the next few weeks,  local companies will be collecting money from within their ranks and handing it over to the agency.

Companies participating include Trane & IUE/CWA Local 782, South side Bank, United Way Agencies, Brookshire Grocery Company, Hibbs-Hallmark & Company, Claims Administrative Services, Heartland Security Insurance Group, Old Glory Insurance Co., and Maddox Air Conditioning.

With state budget cuts affecting non-profits across Texas, United Way is hoping to raise at least $2 million.

One of the non-profits hurting is Casa For Kids, which battles for the rights of abused children in court. Casa receives some of its funding from United Way and the rest from donations, grants and state funds. With their state funding drying up, Casa has added a full-time marketing director to find money in new places.

"The main thing is to be as creative as possible to find any avenue that will help generate funds for this very worthwhile cause," says marketing director Rand Huzenlaub.

Casa Director Reggi Durch says her worst fear is having to turn kids away because she doesn't have the money to take them. The agency lost $260,000 in the past two years. Not to mention, the $90,000 they lost in grant money this year.

"Our numbers have expanded in the last four years so greatly," says Durch. "We weren't even keeping our head above the water then. And now we're definitely not going to be able to serve the children we should."

However, with Rand in the mix, Casa volunteers are hopeful his full-time marketing efforts will attract private donors and foundations. Rand is also dealing with competition from other non-profit agencies who are knocking on the same doors. He says the job agencies have before them is not easy, but it can be done.

"We've got to tell our story," says Rand. "And only through telling our story will we be able to convince people to help, to volunteer and to contribute."