The United Way kicked off their annual charity drive yesterday by playing Cupid.

The local nonprofit – a volunteer-based organization that funds services such as job training, childcare scholarships and job training in Santa Barbara – is asking for UCSB faculty and staff to donate small amounts out of each of their paychecks to the United Way Fund. In addition, the charity will be selling and distributing chocolate valentine candy grams for $2 each, with the proceeds going to the fund.

In this year’s campaign, themed “So Many Ways to Give,” the United Way hopes to surpass last year’s total of $114,954. The nonprofit is also looking to increase participation in the campaign from the campus community, Julie Miller, a special events coordinator for UCSB, said.

Although UCSB is ranked third overall in the county for its charity accomplishments, Miller said that last year only 9 percent of faculty and staff participated in the charity campaign.

According to Miller, pledge forms have already been distributed to the staff and faculty for cash or check donations.

“[There are] hundreds of organizations donors can choose to designate their money toward,” Miller said. “If they don’t want to take the time to choose, then United Way will either use the money for their programs or in communities that are most in need. We want people to realize they can give back to the community.”

Miller said the plan to is to increase involvement from the faculty and staff by providing many forms of participation, including volunteer work, candy grams and monetary donations.

According to the UCSB United Way Web site, participants that donate $2 from each pay period can provide 30 calls on a suicide prevention hotline, a homeless family with two nights of housing or 30 nutritious meals for seniors. Additionally, $5 from each pay period can provide a hundred pounds of food for low-income men, women and children, a year of drug and alcohol counseling for teens and their families or seventy-five nutritious meals for seniors. While, $10 from each pay period can provide a disabled elderly person with ten hours home care, one month of after-school daycare for three children or a low income toddler one week in a safe and licensed childcare facility.

Sandra Featherson, co-chair of the campaign and associate director of control in Accounting Services and Controls said the various channels for giving provide alternatives to economic contributions.

“We recognize not everyone can give financially and so with our campaign theme, ‘So Many Way to Give,’ people can give their time as volunteers or buy grams,” Featherson said. “It’s about participating.”

The United Way Campaign will be selling chocolate valentine gram order forms online until Feb. 27. For more information visit the United Way Web site at