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September 21, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Mariners legend, wife step up for United Way of King County

The Seattle Times editorial board gets a lot of visitors.

This week, former Mariners catcher Dan Wilson and his wife, Annie, stopped by with United Way of King County Chief Executive Jon Fine and Public Relations Manager Jared Erlandson to discuss their new role as co-chairs of the organization's annual campaign.

Here's the Instagram proof:


The Wilsons spoke with a lot of heart as they pitched their goal of raising $111 million in the next year for United Way of King County.

In today's Seattle Times editorial, our board wholeheartedly supports their efforts.

We recognize that United Way is a critical player in the battle to end homeless, prepare children for school, and help families meet their basic needs. It also provides financial grants to nearly 200 grassroots organizations throughout our region.

The road to raising that $111 million won't be easy. This year's target is still well below the peak amount of $122.4 million United Way raised before the economy tanked in 2008. Workplace and individual giving has yet to rebound.

As the youngest chairs to ever serve in this capacity, Dan and Annie Wilson, both 43, are hoping they can reach out to a younger generation of donors. CEO Jon Fine said their goal is to maintain and expand initiatives that have proven to be effective, such as the Parent-Child Home Program, an early learning service that prepares disadvantaged kids for school.

Here's a video about the program, produced by United Way of King County:

There remains an unmet need in nearly every area in which United Way provides services. Just take a look at the numbers they brought to our attention:

  • Between 8,000 and 9,000 people are on the streets or in shelters any given night in King County.

  • As of May 2012, the organization's homeless advocates report 240,000 residents needed help accessing basic food.

  • Thanks to generous donors, meals were provided over the summer to 20,000 low-income kids who might have otherwise gone hungry.

The former Mariners catcher said he has learned a lot by visiting United Way beneficiaries, including service centers for the homeless.

"It was interesting to talk to a man who said the thing that really benefited him was the eye contact. He said, 'Nobody looks at you on the street.' It's those kind of things that really make you appreciate the need that's there," Wilson told us.

For Annie Wilson, a former school teacher in Minneapolis and mother of four, abolishing hunger "in a new way" is important.

"I taught in the inner city, so my kids came to school hungry every day," she recounted. "Seeing that we're investing in programs that aren't just about getting food from food banks, it's giving [kids] food that's healthy and is going to give them energy and sustainability — that's what I'm passionate about."

The couple admitted they didn't know much about United Way at first, but they've spent the last year doing their research. Eventually, they said they came to be inspired by the organization's "extensive, thorough, and holistic" approach to charity work.

We should salute their efforts and join the cause.

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