We Did It!

Although the United Way officially ended its campaign in November, falling short of its goal, recent contributions have pushed the total to the $1 million mark. Here, Paula Obermark, left, United Way executive director, and Becky Buhr, campaign co-chair, celebrate the milestone for the organization.     Missourian Photo.

The old adage of better late than never, couldn’t be more true for the Franklin County Area United Way.

The United Way officially ended its fund-raising campaign in November, falling short of its $1 million goal. But the board of directors and staff never gave up on the dream.

And this week, thanks to some recent contributions, campaign co-chairs Becky Buhr and Brad Mitchell announced the drive has hit the $1 million mark.

Paula Obermark, executive director, said the announcement is one of “excitement, joy and awe” for herself and the entire board.

“It is really overwhelming and almost unbelievable,” Obermark told The Missourian.

When the campaign kicked off in early September, Buhr and Mitchell said the “ambitious” goal was set because of increased needs in the Franklin County area, but also as a parting gift of sorts for Obermark who is retiring this summer after 33 years with the United Way.

Obermark said raising $1 million had always been a personal goal.

“It really was a dream of mine, a hope,” she said. “I actually felt I let myself down when the campaign ended in November.

“When we announced our attainment of $969,709 in November, we were a little over $30,000 short,” she said. “Although we were close, we might as well have been $30 million short. Actually, I felt like every rock in Franklin County had been turned over in this search for additional donations. We were exhausted.”

But things started to change about two weeks ago.

“In running the numbers like I do every week, I found we were only $12,500 from reaching the $1 million mark which made me think we had a really good chance to make this happen before the rollover date on March 1,” she said. “I started making calls and inquiries searching for a miracle.”

Obermark said this search resulted in a challenge grant from an anonymous couple who really believe in the good work of the United Way and its value for the community.

“They offered to match dollar for dollar any donation from any source up to $6,000,” she said. “This really put us in high gear. Calls, visits and actual pleas for help resulted in multiple donations, and we were almost there, but not quite.”

In one last call, Obermark said a donor who has contributed greatly to the United Way in the past, said he would be honored to put the drive over the top.

“And wow, it was done,” she said. “This really does affirm my belief in the goodness, kindness and determination of the people in Franklin County to do their very best to bring the very best to our community.”

Buhr said this particular campaign is special.

“This is truly a milestone for our organization,” she said “This campaign is the culmination of a spectacular 33-year career for Paula, and quite possibly the greatest retirement gift she could have ever received.”

Obermark joked that she now feels like she has permission to retire.

“It’s the best gift ever,” she said. “I know I am leaving this organization in such good hands, people who are so committed to continuing the good work of the United Way.”