Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 15, 2013

Groups that depended on the United Way of the Virginias wait to see what will replace its assistance

GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Work is underway to dissolve the United Way of the Virginias while two new United Way agencies prepare to serve the former organizations member agencies in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

United Way Worldwide announced on Dec. 2 that it was severing ties with the United Way of the Virginias due to the loss of that organization’s tax-exempt status. In October, the public learned the local United Way had not filed the necessary documents with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office to maintain its non-profit status.

Local leaders met Tuesday with the executive directors of two neighboring United Way organizations that will begin serving the former organization’s member agencies. The United Way of Southern West Virginia will serve Mercer and McDowell counties. In Virginia, Bland, Buchanan and Tazewell counties will be served by the United Way Virginia Highlands.

Area organizations that depended on the United Way of the Virginias are now waiting to see what will replace the funding they had received annually. In one example, the Mercer County 4-H Leaders received its annual allotment of $8,000 on a regular basis, said 4-H member Brenda Pruett.

“There have not been any issues with our allotment until the last couple of months,” Pruett said. “That’s when we realized there was an issue. We did not have an issue. We got our money, and we used it the way it was intended to be used. It was a surprise to us when the news broke.”

Pruett said losing this annual funding would adversely impact 4-H programs.

“They (new United Way organizations) have already done their allotments of 2014 money. It’s a concern because if we do not have United Way money, we have to raise money. The 4-H people will have to become fund raisers instead of concentrating on good programming for children,” she said.

Margaret O’Neal, executive director for the United Way of Southern West Virginia, said during the Dec. 10 meeting with local leaders that there are plans to conduct a 2014 fundraising campaign. Another goal is to determine the needs of the new member organizations, what funding is necessary to keep them in operation, and whether an earlier fund drive must be conducted.

Chief Executive Director Travis Staton with the United Way of the Virginia Highlands said his agency plans to host “community input sessions” in Bland, Buchanan and Tazewell counties to help determine the needs in each county. The meetings will be conducted in early January 2014.

The Secretary of State’s Office spoke with Scott Browning, treasurer for the United Way of the Virginias, on Dec. 12, said spokesperson Jake Glance.

“He said he hadn’t heard from us. We tried to contact him several times,” Glance said Friday. “We have drafted a letter, and decided to call him and tell him what was in the letter.”

The letter, dated Dec. 12, informed the local United Way that the Secretary of State’s Office had received the 2008 through 2012 registration statements, $75 in registration fees ($15 per year) and $1,450 in late filing fees and supporting documents to renew the registration for the United Way of the Virginias, Inc., whose registration had expired Dec. 8, 2008.

The registration statements, fees, and supporting documents were returned to the United Way because all of the required information was new received to renew or to close the file of the organization, according to the letter Glance provided to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

The Secretary of State’s Office still requires either an audit or financial review for each year the United Way did not register, Glance said.

“We don’t know which one they need to file because we do not know how much they took in during those years they did not file,” Glance said.

An audit is required if a nonprofit organization takes in $200,000 or more annually. If the annual amount is less than $200,000, the organization must conduct a financial review, Glance said. A deadline for providing audits or reviews had not been set.

If the Secretary of State’s Office determines an investigation is necessary, the case would be handed to a prosecutor since the Secretary of State does not have prosecutorial powers, Glance said.

Browning could not be reached for additional comment Friday.