A community group is struggling to get an alternative charity fund called Community Shares/Utah on its feet to support environmental, social and other concerns in the state.

Community Shares, organized this summer, is designed to support organizations not typically funded by other charities, like United Way, said Community Shares chairwoman Barbara Toomer of Crossroads Urban Center.The alternative fund supports Salt Lake Citizen's Congress, the Utah Wilderness Association, the Sierra Club, Utahns Against Hunger, Crossroads Urban Center, the Utah Environment Center and Parents Helping Parents, she said.

Member organizations work to feed the hungry, serve low-income neighborhoods, preserve the environment, counsel teens and families and assist the homeless, a Community Shares brochure said.

The groups "are run by and for Utahns working to address the root causes of problems and working for positive changes that mean better lives for us all," the brochure said.

Toomer admits the organizations carry some political baggage. "There's no way around it, we're social-action people," she said.

And the organization faces the challenge of entering a charity market dominated by the United Way, she said. "We're not attacking United Way, we just want a fair share in the marketplace."

Toomer met with Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis to establish a work-place solicitation program like United Way. City attorneys are reviewing the program for DePaulis, Community Affairs Director Stephanie Peterson said.

The group has had difficulty instituting Community Shares in Utah companies but is circulating donor option forms permitting United Way donors to send donations to Community Shares.