Committing to a better tomorrow through donations

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At the State and University Employees Combined Appeal, or SECA bake sale, Wendy Johnson, Assistant to the Dean of Public Affairs and Administration, says Normajean Niebur’s baked goods almost always sell out. Niebur, who works as an Office Support Specialist in Public Affairs and Administration, had a big hit with her rum cake, but some other contenders, such as jars of Chancellor Susan Koch’s homemade apple sauce, were following closely behind at the start of the noon hour. All the proceeds from the donated goods support SECA causes.

SECA is a giving campaign that raises money for 11 charitable federations. SECA offers UIS employees the opportunity to donate on a one-time or recurring basis to a charity of their choice. With nearly 2,000 charitable causes organized under the 11 umbrella foundations, faculty and staff have many options for how they want to direct their contributions.

Erica Michael, Assistant to the Chancellor, sits on the five-member organizing committee for SECA at UIS. She said that the charities people choose often reflect a personal commitment. For example, “The former assistant to the Provost’s daughter was afflicted by one of these diseases [addressed by an organization], so several people on the floor gave to that particular charity for her,” she said.

The charities, chosen by a statewide board of which Michael is a member, include the American Cancer Society, Earth Share Illinois, the United Way, the Special Olympics of Illinois, and more. The 2011 statewide campaign raised $2.6 million for organizations that address such diverse causes as global warming, animal abuse and neglect, and international medical issues. “Everybody seems to have their own cause,” Michael said.

For their part, the 140 employees who participated last year raised over $32,000. Many employees choose to contribute to local United Way projects, such as the Sojourn Shelter for victims of domestic violence, Michael said. Since 2000, UIS has won outstanding achievement awards every year and the Chancellor’s Cup, which is awarded to the public university that has the highest percentage of participation, four of those years.

Michael acknowledged that the recession and modest wage increases and freezes have impacted people’s ability to give. “Last year, because of those factors, we did not even advertise a goal, but we’re thrilled with the results based on people’s generosity.”

This year, instead of a dollar goal, SECA organizers have set a goal of 190 total participating employees. “If more and more people participate, then the dollar amount will obviously rise as well,” Michael said. So far, about 50 faculty and staff have committed to giving in the traditional campaign, but this is not the only way SECA raises money on campus.

In lieu of a direct contribution, the entire UIS community is invited to help by attending brown bag lunches where they can learn how to create a personal website, make a perfect apple pie, or use iPad apps for fun and productivity. Each brown bag lunch session costs $5, with the proceeds divided equally among the 11 charitable federations. “It’s great when somebody gives a huge gift, but we need to focus more on getting people involved; whether they give five dollars or twenty dollars, it’s all needed and it’s helpful,” Michael said.

With 100 percent of the proceeds going to the contributor’s designated charities, there are many opportunities for making a difference. More information about SECA is available at http://www.uis.edu/pride/seca.html. The yearly campaign ends November 16.

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