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CASA GRANDE — As United Way of Pinal County marks its 40-year anniversary this month, the organization is celebrating its successes in the community while looking back on the impact it has had on lives.

“It’s exciting to look back and see the accomplishments,” said Joe Caruso, United Way of Pinal County development and marketing manager.

United Way of Pinal County began in 1981 to ensure that money donated by area corporations benefited local communities.

“At this time in history, corporate giving was almost exclusively through United Ways, as they founded the corporate giving campaigns,” Caruso said. “United Way of Pinal County was founded to bring corporate funding to Pinal County to fund the nonprofit agencies in our area and support the community.”

Four decades later, Caruso said the organization has touched the lives of more than 100,000 residents in Pinal County, making a big impact on their lives.

“I think our biggest accomplishment is the VITA tax assistance program, which has impacted area households with bigger tax returns. The program has helped Pinal County residents receive more than $10 million in tax refunds,” Caruso said.

Another area of pride for United Way of Pinal County is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which improves literacy rates by sending books to kids. More than 1,200 kids throughout the area are signed up with the program, receiving a new, free book each month.

“That program has had a big impact on families,” Caruso said. “I think the United Way’s work with the homeless in Apache Junction and Casa Grande is another big accomplishment.”

Over the past 40 years, United Way of Pinal County provided tens of thousands of dollars to area residents to help with rent assistance, utility assistance, disaster relief and car or bicycle repairs.

As well, the organization helped:

  • provide 4,354 kids with counseling
  • give 700 backpacks to children
  • donate 23,729 books to children
  • distribute 13,268 food boxes
  • distribute 4,026 Meals on Wheels
  • provide 100,000 water bottles to first responders and
  • serve 22,089 meals.

The organization also founded coalitions for the homeless and provided for 5,035 emergency hotel nights as well as 777 shelter nights. About 722 Smart Move participants were helped and 400 people were fed from 20 gardens.

“In the next 40 years, we would love to see the United Way of Pinal County providing abundant financial education for our communities to become financially stable, along with the education resources more readily available across the county to all who need,” Caruso said.

To celebrate its 40 years of service, the organization hopes to raise $40,000 to expand its programs and add new services.

The organization plans a golf tournament fundraiser in April and other events to raise money over the next few months.

Donations may also be made on the United Way of Pinal County website, unitedwayofpc.org.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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