Every year the Franklin County Area United Way campaign comes down to the closing week behind in reaching the goal, but then when all reports are in, the annual drive hits the goal and usually surpasses it. That happened this year and a record $1.2 million was raised. 

The drive has never failed!

The goal was $1.1 million. A “phenomenal amount of money and a big win for the community,” said Kim Strubberg, United Way executive director.

The successful campaign comes at a time to be thankful — for the United Way, its volunteers, all of the donors and the 53 member agencies that will share the money donated.

The smaller donations and pledges are important, along with the major donors’ contributions. Without countywide participation and giving, the goal could not be met. It’s a professional undertaking.

There is pride in Franklin County and with that comes generosity. It would damage the county’s pride to not be successful in this campaign that means so much to county residents. The 53 member agencies reach out to an estimated 65,000 people in this county of slightly more than 100,000 residents who benefit directly from the drive. The reach of the agencies is long. In many cases the work of a member agency is “quiet,” that is, not many people see the direct help given. Other agencies are more in the public eye and their work is in the light of the county.

The United Way has a reputation of screening members’ requests for funds very closely. Also, campaign costs are kept low, mainly because of the work of the volunteers.

Not enough praise can be directed to the volunteers, along with our thanks. It’s a yearlong commitment for the leaders and even at the lowest level of volunteering, what those volunteers do is important to the success of the campaign.

Looking back to the united way of giving, it was in the 1950s that the electric utility, Union Electric, had a betterment program for communities in its service area. The Community Chest was formed, a few member agencies joined, and a goal was set. It was a tiny goal in those days — less than $50,000. It was later that the United Way name came, along with making it a countywide campaign. The affiliation with the St. Louis United Way also brought training and campaign advice, which helped in the growth cycle.

The United Way has come a long way since the idea of one large fund campaign for agencies and charitable organizations was hatched. It reduced the number of fund campaigns that once plagued the cities and counties.

The volunteer spirit the United Way has should move all of us to say “thanks” to the people, young and old, who led, worked and, yes, donated to the annual campaign. That spirit is strong and willing to do what it takes to conduct the annual campaign.