The Franklin County Area United Way campaign — the single largest annual fundraising drive in the area — is officially underway.
The drive kicked off Sept. 1 and will run through Oct. 31.
The 2017 goal is $1,111,111, according to Whitney Livengood, board president and campaign chair.
This year’s theme, playing off the goal, is Improving Lives Together — Will You Be the 1 to Help.
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 65,000 people were touched by these agencies last year, said Executive Director Kim Strubberg.
“Your weekly contribution adds up to more than you can imagine,” Strubberg said. “And all of the money raised in the drive will stay right here.”
Last year, $1 million was allocated to the agencies, thanks to a successful campaign that brought in $1,177,902, exceeding the goal by $77,902.
Livengood said determining the goal each year is always difficult.
“We liked that $1,111,111 is easy to remember and it plays into our theme,” she said. “We do try to be conservative in setting the goal, but we also know the needs do not go away. Although we were able to allocate an amazing $1 million last year, our requests came in at over $1.2 million.”
Livengood and Strubberg said they are “optimistic” the goal will be met, but note that Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma could impact giving.
As of Friday, the United Way has held over 20 rallies, in addition to the pilot company drives.
That head start is a real bonus, said Strubberg,
Dollars Can Buy
The United Way is asking people to consider gifts in multiples of 1.
“That might be $11 per month, $111 or $1,011,” said Strubberg.
“For the cost of everyday items, a cup of coffee, movie tickets, dinner out, you can help people live better lives,” she said. “Your generosity provides more than you can ever imagine.”
Livengood noted that just $5 can provide 50 pounds of food at the local food pantries and $10 will provide someone in need with free legal services at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.
A donation of $20 will provide someone gas to get to work or the doctor through Community Outreach in Gerald, while $50 will provide a riding helmet at Exceptional Equestrians and $100 will help two clients at VOYCE find quality long-term care.
Livengood 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.
Livengood also noted that administration costs are kept very low at the Franklin County Area United Way, thanks in part to its all-volunteer board of directors. Eighty-five percent of all money collected goes right back to the agencies, she said.
Officials said the campaign is already off to a great start thanks to the success of the five pilot companies which brought in a combined total of nearly $70,000 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 pilot companies are Farmers & Merchants Bank, The Missourian, Hillermann Nursery & Florist, Gerald Industries and Heartland Independent Living, which also is a United Way agency.
“These companies have done an amazing job for us and definitely set the tone for the entire campaign,” said Strubberg. “I’m truly blown away and can’t thank them enough.
“We hope their hard work will motivate other companies to follow their example,” she added.
Livengood said all five pilot companies exceeded expectations and brought great energy to the drive. Some of the companies are continuing to raise money, she noted, which is just amazing.
The Missourian’s donation is up nearly 11 percent with a total gift of $30,235, which includes a corporate match and several leadership gifts of $1,000 or more. The Missourian held several drawings and special events.
“As a pilot company, we were very pleased with the response given to the drive by our employees,” said Bill Miller Sr., editor and publisher.
“The drive at The Missourian was coordinated by Karen Cernich, Amy Steffens, Jeanine York, Jeanne Miller Wood, Susan Miller Warden and Whitney Livengood,” Miller said. “They did a great job.”
Farmers & Merchants Bank raised over $12,000, up nearly 38 percent from last year. The bank sold eclipse glasses which helped boost its total.
“As a community bank for the past 103 years, FMB has always felt one of our primary obligations was to continually give back to and strive to improve the communities in which we are located,” said Heather Rucker, Farmers & Merchants Bank project manager.
“The United Way’s mission is a good fit and something we believe in,” she said. “We viewed this chance to be a pilot company as a welcome opportunity to take a more prominent role in campaigning for the overall success of the United Way.”
At Gerald Industries, anyone who turned in a pledge card received a Scratchers lottery ticket, which helped the company raise just over $10,000, which includes a corporate donation. The company also had a 71 percent participation rate.
“We wanted to be a pilot company because we did so well last year — our first year,” said Nancy Woods, HR manager. “Our employees enjoy giving — particularly when they see how much the United Way helps their community. A lot of them also have been touched by the United Way.”
Hillermann Nursery & Florist’s campaign is ongoing, but the company has already raised $6,000 — a 160 percent increase over last. This total does not yet include employee giving.
The nursery sold eclipse T-shirts, hosted a paint and sip, and held company lunches.
“We were excited about being a pilot company, mainly because we know how much the United Way helps not only the people of Washington, but residents in the surrounding communities of Franklin County,” said Tyler King, marketing production coordinator.
“Any time there is an opportunity to help and give back to our community, we do, because there is nothing like strengthening the community you live in and the communities around you,” he said.
The final pilot company, Heartland Independent Living Center, is also an agency. The organization has brought in nearly $3,000 — a 22 percent increase — and it’s not done yet. The agency also reported a nearly 80 percent participation rate, which included in-office staff, in-home staff and board of directors.
Heartland also gave employees who pledged at least 50 cents per week a special T-shirt.
“I consider it an honor for this organization to be a pilot company,” said Pat Chambers, director.
“Heartland began receiving a United Way grant in 2003,” he said. That’s a lot of years, and a lot of funding we have received to support the quality of life, especially for those individuals with disabilities, in Franklin County. The very least we could do was to step up our role in giving back.”