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To the editor:

Recently, there have been concerns expressed in the news media regarding the national office of the United Way. As a director of a member agency of the United Way of the Great Salt Lake Area, I would like to reflect upon a few items.First and foremost, it must be realized that our United Way in the Salt Lake area is a local, community-based autonomous organization with its own executive director and controlling board of directors. The local board controls the funding to the member agencies. There is no outside "influence" from the national United Way office.

The second point is that the volunteer structure of the United Way allows the average person to become involved in the needs of the local community. This past year, we have had over 50 volunteers from the United Way tour our three funded programs: our drug and alcohol rehabilitation center; our family service department; our community dining room. These volunteers are now knowledgeable about our programs.

In the same way, the other agencies have had volunteers to their programs. Hundreds of individuals in the Salt Lake area are more involved, knowledgeable and willing to help the less fortunate because of their participation in the United Way process.

The third point is the most critical. Over the past few months, we in the Great Salt Lake Area have seen media reports of agencies that have lost their state license because of improper fund-raising. We have seen reports of the state closing down bogus charities. We often wonder whom we can trust.

This is where the United Way plays a most important role: accreditation. The next time you are asked for funds from an unknown charity, find out its relationship with the United Way.

If this charity is a member agency of the United Way of the Great Salt Lake Area, rest assured that it is legitimate. It is very difficult to undergo the scrutiny required to become a United Way member agency, and it is a continuing challenge to maintain this relationship.

No part of any agency's activities is left untouched by the yearly scrutiny of the United Way. A United Way agency is a reputable agency.

It is my hope that the good people who have made the United Way the community leader that it is will maintain their trust and confidence in the United Way of the Great Salt Lake Area.

Major Russell Fritz

Salt Lake Basin Coordinator

Salvation Army