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United we stand: United Way officials attempt to ride out a nationwide scandal.

The national scandal surrounding William Aramony's resignation as president of the United Way of America shook the nation's fund-raising community.

The aftershocks could be felt all the way to Little Rock.

Aramony's lavish expenditures -- his first-class travel tickets, his chauffeured automobiles, his motorized office window blinds -- led to his ouster after 22 years as head of the nation's largest charitable organization.

Although Aramony is gone, the organization is still facing intense scrutiny and charges of improper management practices.

Fifty-five high-level positions have been eliminated as the United Way attempts to clear its name nationally.

The examination of local United Ways has been an inevitable result.

A trip to the United Way of Pulaski County Inc.'s offices on Main Street in downtown Little Rock shows that the extravagance that caused trouble at the national level isn't plaguing this branch.

There are few chairs that match in the office. The pairs that do belong together, such as the bright orange ones in the president's office, appear to be straight out of the 1970s.

The mishmash of furniture in the sparse reception area -- the most accessible seating is a worn couch that doesn't look possible to get out of once one has sunken in -- is enough to make a visitor think this is the home of an organization that should be receiving money from the United Way.

But tacky colors and outdated styles don't provide insulation from public dissection.

"It has been the most unusual thing I've had to deal with," says President Leon Matthews. "It probably has been the most difficult time in my career, trying to explain to people that we're a bottoms-up organization and the United Way of America is a service organization for us."

After 19 years with an organization that had instant credibility among the nation's business leaders -- the national board is a business who's who -- Matthews finds himself in the same plight as other local United Way leaders.

They're trying to prove that the national problems haven't trickled down to the local level.

Matthews says some contributors misunderstood what happened with Aramony and what the ramifications were for the United Way of Pulaski County.

For instance, a fellow member of the Downtown Little Rock Rotary Club mentioned his concerns to Matthews, who then emphasized that nothing criminal actually took place.

"He understands now," Matthews says. "And he sent his check."

However, Matthews still has some convincing to do.

Scheming For Success

Larry Wallace of the Little Rock law firm Wallace Clayton & Green was anxious to see new batches of United Way posters and literature delivered to Matthews' office last week.

Wallace is chairman of the United Way of Pulaski County's board. That means he's ultimately responsible for the organization's fund-raising efforts. Come fall, he'll have a goal to meet, national scandal or not.

The pamphlets and posters have the familiar United Way logo and its catchy slogan, "Give one gift that gives and gives."

But a new twist has been added.

Tom Steves, the United Way's vice chairman for communications and director of account services at the Little Rock advertising agency Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, saw to it that the words "right here at home" followed.

It is part of the United Way of Pulaski County's subtle plan to let contributors know their money is supporting an Arkansan's need and not someone else's greed.

The 1,700 autonomous United Ways all are attempting to distance themselves from the national organization.

Steves thinks it is important to explain what happened with Aramony and then describe the United Way of Pulaski County's relationship with the national organization.

In 1991, the United Way of Pulaski County gave $47,635 to the national organization. That was less than 1 percent of the $5.35 million it raised.

Matthews claims the United Way received a $140,000 return on its investment last year.

The national United Way was instrumental is helping him obtain a $50,000 Points of Light Foundation grant that will allow the United Way of Pulaski County to develop volunteer centers in the area.

The group buying power that comes with the affiliation saves in countless areas. Matthews could not have afforded the United Way lapel pin he wears each day unless it had been designed and purchased nationally.

He is used to penny-pinching, which is essential when running a charitable organization.

Growing Up United

When Leon Matthews is asked about his career with the United Way, he points out that he has been involved with the organization since childhood. That's because Matthews was active in a United Way-supported Boys Club in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

He served as a branch director for three years following graduation from college.

Matthews then became a field representative for the American Red Cross in Georgia before joining the United Way in Miami in 1973. As a member of the senior staff there for five years, Matthews took turns heading every major division. He was director of community services, communications, allocations and planning and finally campaign director.

It was a reluctant Matthews who was asked to join the United Way of Pulaski County in 1977. Yet when he met with community leaders, he saw potential and decided to move to a smaller city.

Matthews made immediate changes.

He discovered, for example, that although Arkansas had one of the largest percentages of retired people in the country, the United Way wasn't funding programs for the elderly.

In addition to determining specific needs, Matthews was instrumental in combining the 11-member United Way staff with the 14-person Community Council of Central Arkansas, a planning agency partially funded by the United Way. That change in late 1978 strengthened the United Way, which today has a staff of 18.

Just less than 11 percent of the United Way's revenue goes to administrative costs. That compares with a 15 percent average for other local United Way organizations. To maintain that percentage, volunteers have had to assume an increasing amount of responsibility.

Many of the business leaders who convinced Matthews to come to Little Rock 15 years ago are now retired. He's dealing with a new set of leaders.

The needs the United Way is trying to meet have changed as well.

The $1.6 million United Way budget has grown to $5.35 million during Matthews' tenure, but the federal government's contribution to community-based programs has been cut drastically.

And the problems keep coming.

Matthews and Steves say the idea of homeless people in Little Rock is something they weren't prepared to face.

Youth problems, including gangs, is another new and expensive battle.

Meanwhile, the money the United Way receives from the Combined Federal Campaign has been reduced. The CFC is a contribution program for federal employees. It once gave 93 percent of its undesignated contributions to the United Way. That percentage dropped to 80 percent last year, but it still meant $17,000 to the United Way of Pulaski County. This year, the United Way will receive 54 percent of the undesignated contributions.

Another problem is that half of the money raised through CFC leaves the state. Only $247,000 of the $540,000 raised last year went to agencies in Arkansas. Steves and Matthews are working to educate federal employees about how their donations are used.

That's just one part of the United Way's plan to increase the number of dollars being donated locally.

Strategic Direction

Wallace doesn't like discussing the United Way's national problems.

Matthews takes the pressure off Wallace and dismisses the national United Way as a trade organization for local autonomous organizations.

Work began on the United Way's five-year development plan in 1990. Five focus groups have met and three surveys have been conducted. They identified areas of concern such as crime, employment opportunities and substance abuse.

Problems such as a lack of information about available services also were determined.

United Way board members and a strategic planning committee that includes members such as Little Rock City Manager Tom Dalton and North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays will meet at Wallace's Hot Springs lake house this week to formulate a plan.

The plan won't be finalized until it has been presented to the various agencies the United Way serves, but it should be ready by the end of July.

Matthews says this is an ideal time for the United Way to set goals. He says the United Way's strategy can take into account efforts such as Future-Little Rock, whose steering committee is defining goals to take the city into the year 2000.

Instead of people focusing on the United Way's problems nationally, Matthews wants the focus back on what the organization can do for central Arkansas.

Once the publicity regarding the national scandal passes, Matthews says, "I would like people to say the United Way is a community problem solver."

Revenue Recipients

43 Agencies Received 89 Percent Of The United Way Of Pulaski County's $5.35 Million In 1991

In 1991, officials for the United Way of Pulaski County Inc. studied problems in central Arkansas to determine where to spend the money raised by the organization. Then, they allocated the money to 43 non-profit agencies.

Those agencies and the services they offer are:

Services For Families And Children Advocates for Battered Women

Provides emergency services, shelter, counseling and other assistance to battered women and their children.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Pulaski County Inc.

Matches children from single-parent families with adult volunteers.

Centers for Youth & Families

Comprised of the Family Counseling Center, Stepping Stone Inc., The Parent Center and Woodlawn Therapeutic Children's Center. Each is counted as a separate organization.

Family Service Agency of Central Arkansas

Provides counseling services to families and individuals.

Florence Crittenton Home Services Inc.

Provides residential care for unmarried pregnant women.

Rape Crisis Inc.

Operates a 24-hour hotline and provides support to rape victims.

SCAN (Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect)

Investigates reports of child abuse and provides support to families with abuse problems.

Health And Community Services American Cancer Society

Promotes early detection, prevention and treatment of cancer and supports cancer research programs.

American Heart Association

Attempts to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Arkansas ABLE (Abilities Based on Long Experience)

Provides occupational training to job seekers 50 years of age or older.

Arthritis Foundation, Arkansas Chapter

Seeks to prevent more than 100 diseases known as arthritis and improve the quality of life for the 369,000 Arkansans who suffer from arthritis.

Jacksonville Elderly Activities Program

Offers services such as transportation and physical fitness programs for senior citizens.

Riverbend Recovery Center

Provides residential and outpatient alcohol and drug treatment services, counseling and employment assistance.

SCAT (Senior Citizens Activities Today)

Provides adult day-care services five days a week and offers meals and activity programs.

Twenty-Four Hour Center Inc.

Assists in rehabilitation of alcoholics.

Visiting Nurse Association of Arkansas

Provides health services to people who need home care.

Youth Development Services Bess C. Stephens YWCA

Provides social and athletic activities for young women and their families. Also has programs for the physically handicapped, post-mastectomy patients, arthritis patients and senior citizens.

Boy Scouts of America, Quapaw Area Council Inc.

Provides physical fitness and leadership programs for boys and girls and offers a program for "latchkey" children.

Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club

Provides educational and recreational activities.

Little Rock Air Force Base Youth Center

Provides programs for dependents of military personnel.

Little Rock Boys Club

Provides recreational activities for youth at three units.

North Little Rock Boys and Girls Club

Provides recreational activities for youth and an alternative program for students suspended from school.

Ouachita Girl Scout Council

Provides girls ages 5 to 17 with educational and leadership opportunities.


Provides programs for families through five central Arkansas branch locations.

Diversified Opportunities Inc.

Provides day-care services and transportation for disabled and handicapped persons, most of whom are 21 years of age or older.

Services For Exceptional Children And Adults Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled

Provides services for developmentally disabled adults through supervised living facilities and development programs.

Camp Aldersgate Inc.

Provides weekend respite care and summer medical camps for children with handicaps.

Francis A. Allen School for Exceptional Children

Provides education and services for children with special needs from birth through 5 years of age.

Goodwill Industries of Arkansas Inc.

Provides vocational training for people with disabilities.

North Hills Services Inc.

Provides school and day-care services for children from birth to 5 years of age. Also provides development programs for those 18 years of age and older.

Pathfinder Inc.

Provides residential education and training for handicapped children and adults.

Pathfinder Special Day Services Center

Provides services for developmentally disabled children and physically handicapped and low-income senior citizens.

Services To Meet Basic Needs American Red Cross

Provides disaster relief and volunteer assistance.

Arkansas Foodbank Network

Collects and distributes food to agencies that assist the poor and homeless.

Little Rock School Welfare

Arranges for clothing, optical examinations and school supplies for indigent children.

North Little Rock School Welfare

Assists indigent children.

Pulaski County School Welfare

Assists indigent children.

St. Francis House Inc.

Provides food and clothing to those in need.

Salvation Army

Provides emergency aid to local and transient people in need.

Urban League of Arkansas

Attempts to secure equal opportunities for minorities.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:includes related article; United Way of Pulaski County Inc. dissociates itself from United Way of America scandal
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 29, 1992
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