The largest annual fundraising drive in the area — the Franklin County Area United Way campaign — is officially underway.
The drive kicked off this week and will run through Oct. 31.
The 2018 goal is $1,165,000, in honor of the United Way’s 65th anniversary, according to Dustin Jasper, board president and campaign chair.
Last year’s goal was $1,111,111.
Money raised will benefit 53 agencies and programs which provide health and human services that strengthen families, nurture and protect children, assist the elderly and disabled, and provide emergency assistance.
Over 76,000 people were touched by these agencies last year, said Executive Director Kim Strubberg.
“The theme for our drive is Improving Lives — Improving Our Future,” said Strubberg. “The United Way has been doing just that since 1953, improving lives in Franklin County thanks to the generosity of so many.”
In honor of the 65th anniversary, Jasper said those who have donated in the past are being asked to consider increasing their donation by $65 or even $650. Those donating for the first time are asked to donate $65.
“But no gift is too small,” Strubberg said. “It takes everyone for this campaign to be successful each year and we truly appreciate every gift.”
Last year, $1 million was allocated to the agencies, thanks to a successful campaign.
Strubberg said determining the goal each year is always difficult.
“We do try to be conservative in setting the goal, but we also know the needs do not go away,” she said. “Although we were able to allocate an amazing $1 million last year, our requests came in at over that amount.”
Strubberg and Jasper said they are “optimistic” the goal will be met, but stressed it will take everyone to make that happen.
New companies participating this year include Straatmann Toyota, Lonedell School District, NOA Medical, Eckelkamp Electric and the city of Pacific.
What Your Dollars Can Buy
“For the cost of everyday items — a cup of coffee, movie tickets, dinner out — you can help people live better lives,” Strubberg said. “Your generosity provides more than you can ever imagine.”
Jasper noted that for just $1 a day ($365), a disabled rider can benefit from 13 weeks of therapeutic riding at Exceptional Equestrians or an “incredible” 3,650 pounds of food can be purchased and distributed to those in need by area food pantries.
For $10 a week ($520), ALIVE advocates can assist two domestic abuse survivors obtain orders of protection and two low-income adults can get a scholarship at the Four Rivers Area YMCA.
The Pregnancy Assistance Center can purchase and distribute 10 cases of powdered baby formula or 220 bottles of infant ibuprofen with $19 a week or $1,000. That same amount also will pay for 285 hot meals delivered by Meals on Wheels.
Jasper said the more people who give — at any level — the more people can be helped.
United Way officials said donors should think of their gift as an investment in their community and to the future.
Jasper also noted that administration costs are kept very low, thanks in part to its all-volunteer board of directors. Eighty-five percent of all money collected goes right back to the agencies, he said.
Officials said the campaign is already off to a great start thanks to the success of the five pilot companies, which have brought in over $80,000 combined and that number is still growing.
Each year, the United Way selects five companies to hold an advance campaign to help jump-start the drive.
The companies included the Bank of Franklin County, City of Washington, Schroepfer Bauer Insurance, WEG Transformers USA and Rainbow Abilities Center, which also is an agency.
“These companies have done an amazing job for us and definitely set the tone for the entire campaign,” said Strubberg. “We hope their hard work will motivate other companies to follow their example.”
Jasper said all five pilot companies have exceeded expectations.
Team WEG is proud to “energize” the 2018 United Way campaign by serving as a pilot company, said Mary Shofner, human resources manager.
WEG has raised nearly $30,000 to date and more donations are expected.
“Leading the campaign has been one small way to give back to the community that has been so generous to us for so long,” she said.
Bank of Franklin County
The Bank of Franklin County has raised over $30,000 through employee contributions and specials events, with more to come.
The bank also reported 100 percent participation among its employees.
“The bank has been a longtime supporter of the United Way and continues to support it for all it does in giving back to the community,” said Jasper, who works for the Bank of Franklin County.
City of Washington
The city of Washington has raised nearly $11,000 for the campaign, which includes employee donations through payroll deductions and special events.
And it is not done yet with many more special events planned for September and October, including a Paint and Sip, pub crawl and street collection.
“Why did we agree to be a pilot company — to help meet the needs of people in the community,” said Mary Trentmann, city clerk.
Holding its first campaign for the United Way, Schroepfer Bauer officials said they wanted to get involved because there are so many unseen needs and they want to give back to the community they work and live in.
The company recently held an inhouse raffle generating over $1,200.
“We look forward to becoming a longtime partner with the United Way,” said Kasey Owens.
Rainbow Abilities Center
To date, Rainbow Abilities Center in Union has brought in over $3,000. The United Way agency serves adults with developmental disabilities, enabling them to be vital members of the community.
Rainbow officials said they are excited and proud to serve as a pilot company because the agency has been fortunate to meet its long-term goal of a new facility, made possible in part by the United Way.
“We wanted to share in our success and stand proof of how the United Way is improving lives,” said Lori Schaedler, executive director.