By Samantha Joseph
STUART -- The local United Way agency is making the most of recent praise from "Forbes" magazine, a national business and finance publication.
"Forbes" listed United Way Worldwide -- the umbrella body made up of 1,400 autonomous organizations -- as the nation's largest charity.
It also named the organization to its list of "All-Star Charities." To make the list, agencies must meet several criteria, including dedication to quality programs, efficiency and community impact.
The accolade is a boon for the local United Way agency, now in the thick of its holiday fundraising campaigns.
"Any time something like this differentiates you or separates you from the pack, that's great news," said Jim Vojcsik, executive director of United Way of Martin County.
"There are a lot of charitable organizations out there. And at this time of the year, to be able to say that 'Forbes' magazine recognized us does improve our credibility. It's just one more feather in our cap."
In compiling its list of financial all-stars, Forbes evaluated agencies' private donations and considered the overall percentage of donations used to fund the charities' programs.
"It's an honor to be recognized as the largest charity, but getting the seal of approval as a financial all-star is the recognition that's important to us," Mr. Vojcsik said.
"Because United Ways share a logo, symbol and brand, a lot of times people assume we are one big organization. But the truth is, we are local and community-based, so all the money is raised locally and stays in the community. We also have the ability to change direction based on changes in the needs of our local community."
United Way of Martin County provides funds for 43 local nonprofits that perform a range of services, including providing child care, after-school programs, aid for low-income families and assistance to the elderly and disabled.
The group funds programs that range from those that aid recovery after natural disasters to others that provide day-to-day assistance for people with severe mental or physical disabilities, said Justin Beard, United Way of Martin County's communications and marketing director.
Its beneficiaries include the local Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Council on Aging, Alzheimer's Community Care, House of Hope, the Salvation Army, Helping People Succeed, ARC of Martin County and the Treasure Coast Food Bank.
"It is an honor for United Way and the thousands of community impact professionals working throughout our network to be recognized as a top charity for our resources, community impact, program quality and organizational efficiency," Stacey Stewart, president of United Way USA, said in a statement.
"After 125 years of creating long-term change in communities, United Way continues to create opportunities for a better life for all throughout the United States and around the world."
For more information on United Way of Martin County, call (772) 283-4800.