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United Way Head Will Leave Early

September 19, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The president of United Way of America this week said she will leave her post nearly a year earlier than planned, amid a struggle between the national charitable organization and its large local affiliates.

Betty Stanley Beene, 53, will step down in January, she said Monday. Beene’s announcement came as the group moves to shift fund raising to a system controlled more closely by the national organization, a regional United Way official said.

``The issue is local autonomy versus a more centralized policy-making system,″ said Joseph G. Calabrese, president of the United Way of Greater Rochester, N.Y., among the nation’s most successful.

Many big-city United Ways operate regional centers that process and distribute donations submitted in workplace pledge drives. Beene, a Texas native, has championed a national pledge-processing center.

In June, she announced that she would step down as president in December 2001. On Monday, Beene told the United Way executive board that she will leave in January, 11 months early.

Calabrese said the national organization is still soliciting donations from companies that typically give to local United Way groups. He said officials of Eastman Kodak Co., based in Rochester, recently received a letter from United Way of America, asking them to contribute directly to the national organization.

``That’s the sort of thing that we feel is in direct competition with our fund raising at the local level,″ Calabrese said.

Beene had also asked local chapters to examine their effectiveness periodically. The move drew opposition from several local United Way organizations, Calabrese said.

Even with the opposition, Beene’s leadership has helped the group’s war chest, bringing in more contributions _ up from $3.25 billion in 1995 to $3.77 billion in 1999. She also bolstered its partnership with the National Football League and increased national grants from $2.1 million for 81 local United Ways in 1997 to $31 million for 573 United Ways this year.

Based in Alexandria, Va., United Way is the national service and training center for 1,400 member organizations, which support more than 44,000 charitable agencies.

Beene was the national organization’s third president since William Aramony left in disgrace in 1992. He was later convicted, along with two colleagues, of defrauding the charity out of $1 million.

Notwithstanding Beene’s early departure, Calabrese said, contributors remain loyal.

``They want to make certain that the dollars that they give are allocated locally, and once I tell them that’s the case, they’re happy,″ he said. ``There may be a crisis in the boardroom in Alexandria, Virginia, but there’s no crisis out in the field.″

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On the Net: United Way site: http://www.unitedway.org

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