WARC and the United Way

It wasn’t long after we moved to Bellingham that Ann Brown, the Public Health Nurse who worked with families of disabled children, told us about the local chapter of WARC, the Washington State Association for Retarded Citizens.  I went to the next meeting while Mary Ann stayed home with the kids.  This was in 1968.  Being somewhat (?) outspoken, within a year I was the new President of the Whatcom County chapter of WARC.

This was before Washington State passed the ‘Education for all’ legislation and in order to provide an education for our developmentally disabled children, the parents had to fund their own school, hire their own teachers and purchase all necessary equipment with funds raised through donut sales, wine-tasting parties, etc.  It was one hell of a job but we did it.  We also did get a grant from the local United Way which helped a lot but was a lot of trouble.  The main problem was the inability of the United Way to give us the money they had committed to giving us in a timely manner so we could pay the teachers.  I was told that this had been going on for a long time but I was not about to let it continue.

I asked for an appointment with Art Leonard, the Executive Director of the United Way and he agreed to meet me in a local coffee shop.  He lamented that he was continually faced with a cash flow problem and at times had to postpone payments to agencies.  I told him I had no sympathy for him, that he needed better management procedures and that if the next payment is not provided when promised the local WARC would round up our Down children and other disabled and organize a “sit-in” in his office, first telling the press, the radio and TV station.  At that point his hand shook so hard the sugar he was trying to put in his coffee cup landed all over the table.  From then on we got our payments on time.

We were still disgruntled with the United Way.  It seemed that in their fund-raising drive they always featured a sweet little Downs child in 80% of their ads but we only got a small percentage of the take.  We felt that they were ‘using’ us and withdrew from the United Way the next year.  But in their bureaucratic stupidity the next year after we had withdrawn from the United Way they still used our sweet little Downs children in their fundraising promotions.  So we sued them for all the donations that were specifically earmarked by the donors for WARC and were able to collect many times more than they had ever paid us in the past.  We were right, we were being used to raise funds for organizations other than our own.