#b#Agencies Challenge United Way Policy#/b#

As the executive directors of seven of Mercer County’s longstanding nonprofit human service organizations we were deeply distressed to learn through a recent newspaper story (“Cash Strapped United Way”) that our clients’ services will not be funded by United Way of Greater Mercer County in 2013. This bodes ill for our community.

Here is what Mercer County families will lose: domestic violence counseling and shelter services for 584 women and children; 2,200 hours of case management and advocacy for youth in the foster care system; 450 hours of specialized counseling for 45 child victims of sexual abuse and their families; mentoring, life skills, and gang prevention programming for 25 juvenile offenders; specialized counseling for child victims of sexual abuse; 2,000 hours of supervised visitation for 70 at-risk juveniles; confidential hotline services for more than 350 depressed and suicidal callers; counseling and more than 700 bags of groceries for low-income families in Hightstown; affordable mental health, substance abuse, and housing counseling for 380 uninsured families; and emergency shelter, long term housing, and groceries for more than 100 homeless families.

All of these services are provided to our community in Spanish and English, at no or low cost.

United Way of Greater Mercer County’s director, Herb Klein III, has cited nothing more than the “opinions” of unspecified donors, as a rationale for carrying out these harsh cuts — $419,000 — to essential social services. What criteria were weighed to determine which services to cut and which to support? What kinds of services were deemed more essential to fulfilling the intent of the thousands of United Way donors who had no say in these decisions? The lack of answers to these questions may explain why United Way defunded seven nonprofit organizations, many of which have served the community for more than 30 years, through a story in the newspaper.

By turning away from the fundamental needs of underserved families in our communities, the United Way of Greater Mercer County has abdicated its historical role as a vital part of the social safety net. The demand for all of our services is much higher than ever due to economic problems we all face. Moreover, each of the agencies to be defunded is also a United Way donor; at no time did United Way ask for our input on what the community needs.

As the United Way of Greater Mercer County reshapes its mission to become a service provider itself, thereby duplicating existing services operated by licensed or certified organizations rather than acting as a fund raiser sending donations to our neediest families and communities, serious questions must be raised about its core purpose in the community and about its abandonment of safety net obligations. Full disclosure about these changes must, ethically, be clearly provided to donors.

Donors should now realize that when they give to United Way of Greater Mercer County, more and more of their donations will be kept by United Way to fund itself as a “new” agency, and that all of the organizations and services cited in this letter are no longer supported by their donations.

Mark Lamar, Lori Morris, Eleanor Letcher, Patricia Hart, Connie Mercer, Leslie Koppel, Penelope Ettinger

Respectively: Family Guidance Center, CASA of Mercer County, CONTACT, Womanspace, HomeFront, Rise, PEIKids

#b#Legalize Marijuana In New Jersey#/b#

It is very promising to learn that Colorado and Washington State legalized marijuana for all adults as the result of voter referendums on November 6. Recreational Marijuana will now be controlled, taxed, and regulated by those states in a way similar to alcohol. Legitimate businesses will be licensed to sell marijuana.

New Jersey arrests approximately 25,000 people per year for marijuana offenses and has a 10 percent unemployment rate. It is time that New Jersey legalizes marijuana to create jobs, reduce crime, and lower taxes.

Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol. It is not addictive, and no one has ever died from it. It is irrational to punish adults for using a substance safer than alcohol.

Just like alcohol prohibition, the prohibition of marijuana has only moved the profits of its production and sale into underground markets and unfairly brands otherwise law-abiding adults with criminal records.

New Jersey, follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state by taxing and regulating marijuana for adults like alcohol.

Eric Hafner

Toms River, NJ

#b#Woodbridge Thanks Supporters, Lempert#/b#

I would like to warmly congratulate Mayor-elect Liz Lempert for a well-earned victory on November 6 and for running a clean, spirited and issues oriented campaign. In the spirit of cooperation, I pledge to do whatever needs to be done to make consolidation work.

I also would like to thank the many supporters and contributors who came from across the entire spectrum of the community to help our non-partisan effort. We received roughly 40 percent of the vote, and I believe we added some much needed diversity to the local conversation. Geoff Aton deserves special credit for running a fantastic race as our ticket’s only candidate for Council. It’s like being the Maytag repairman in a town where everyone owns a Kenmore.

It is always a privilege to run for public office. Now it’s time to transform the promises of the Consolidation Study Commissioninto reality and make Princeton a better place for future generations.

Richard C. Woodbridge

Princeton

#b#UFAR Thanks Race Supporters#/b#

At this year’s UFAR 5K to Combat Riverblindness, more than 100 runners helped to keep people from going blind in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are grateful to the Princeton Theological Seminary for hosting the start and finish of this race. Our sponsors also included Merck, Princeton United Methodist Church, Princeton Eye Group, Sight Savers International, Road ID, Rocky Hill Inn, Songbird Capital, Trader Joe’s, and Princeton Fitness and Wellness Center.

All runners received T-shirts, and we were able to give nine prizes thanks to the generosity of these donors: Blue Ridge Mountain Sports Anthony Rabara Pilates Studio, Rocky Hill Yoga, Forest Jewelers, Princeton Running Company, Landau of Princeton, and the Optical Gallery of Princeton. Race results and photos are posted at www.riverblindness.org.

UFAR is the African-inspired, Lawrenceville-based nonprofit charitable organization that aims to eradicate onchocerciasis, known as riverblindness. This is a horrific disease that causes severe itching and, eventually, leads to blindness by the age of 40. It afflicts more than 13 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The medicine for riverblindness is provided free by Merck & Co. Distributing it to remote villages is difficult yet only costs 58 cents per person per year for 10 years.

Daniel Shungu

Founder, UFAR

Charles Phillips & Liz Meggitt

Race co-chairs

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