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 2019 goal is $1.2 million, according to Nadine Aitch, board president and campaign chair.
Last year’s goal was $1,165,000, in honor of the United Way’s 65th anniversary.
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 70,000 people were touched by these agencies last year, said Executive Director Kim Strubberg.
“The theme for our drive is Improving Lives — Inspiring Hope, and I think that describes what we do perfectly,” said Strubberg.
As assistant superintendent for the St. Clair School District, Aitch said she personally sees the need for the crucial services provided by the United Way campaign each and every day.
“So many of our students and families across Franklin County have benefited from the generosity of those who support United Way,” she said. “Honestly, you could be sitting in a roomful of people, maybe having dinner at a local restaurant or watching a movie, and I am pretty sure you would find someone who has been touched by United Way in one form or fashion — either they have needed some help or have helped others along the way by supporting the United Way drive.”
Strubberg said it takes everyone in the community for the campaign to reach the goal each year.
“And no gift is too small and we truly appreciate every one,” Strubberg said.
Thanks to last year’s successful campaign, a record $1,025,000 is being allocated to the United Way agencies and programs this year.
“This is the first time we’ve topped $1 million in allocations and that’s absolutely huge,” Strubberg said. “Allocating the funds is the best part of my job. One of my personal goals was to get to $1 million in allocations and now I want to see us continue to do that.”
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-plus million last year, our requests came in at over that amount.”
Strubberg and Aitch said they are “optimistic” the goal will be met, but stressed it will take everyone to make that happen.
“I feel the climate for giving is good,” Strubberg said. “The Franklin County community is so generous and they see the need and want to help.”
Strubberg said many companies have already picked up their campaign supplies and are ready to get their in-house drives started, which is always a good sign.
New companies participating this year include Comprehensive Eye, Ed’s Drilling and Canam Steel, all in Washington, and K-D Machine & Tool, Union.
“Every year we hope to have three to five new companies, of all sizes, join our drive, so we can continue to increase giving,” Strubberg said.
What Your Dollars Can Buy
For the cost of everyday items, such as a cup of coffee, a movie ticket or a dinner out residents can help their neighbors, co-workers and others live better lives, Strubberg said.
Aitch noted that for just $1 per day ($365/year), emergency assistance can be provided to a family which is facing having its electricity shut off or 3,650 pounds of food can be purchased and distributed to those in need by area food pantries.
For $10 a week ($520), parenting classes can be provided to five parents seeking to get their children back or two scholarships provided for low-income adults to join the Four Rivers Family YMCA.
“Your generosity provides more than you can ever imagine,” said Strubberg.
Aitch 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.
Aitch also noted that administration costs are kept very low, thanks in part to an all-volunteer board of directors. Eighty-seven cents of every dollar collected goes right back to the agencies, she said.
Strubberg said payroll deduction is an easy and painless way to give. She encourages employees throughout the county to participate in payroll deduction if offered at their company.
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 $72,000 combined and that number is still growing.
Each year, the United Way selects five companies to hold advance campaigns to help jump-start the overall drive.
This year, the pilot companies are First State Community Bank, Washington, Sullivan and Pacific branches; Mercy; St. Clair School District; Straatmann Toyota; and Compass Health Network, which also is an agency.
“These companies have done an amazing job for us and definitely set the pace for the entire campaign,” said Strubberg. “We hope their hard work will motivate other companies to follow their example.”
Aitch said these companies have set the bar high.
First State Community Bank
Scott Breckenkamp, president of the Washington and Pacific markets, said First State Community is excited to serve as a pilot company. He said the Washington branch has raised $5,462 through payroll deductions, donations, raffles, a barbecue and bake sale, jeans days and other activities.
The Sullivan branch has raised about $6,761 and Pacific has brought in $2,385 to date.
In total, the three branches have raised over $14,600, Breckenkamp said, which represents a 178 percent increase in giving over last year. The totals will increase as some special events are still going on.
St. Clair School District
The St. Clair School District has brought in about $21,000 toward its goal of $25,000, according to Aitch.
“The United Way, along with the 53 agencies and programs, have been helping St. Clair schools and schools across the county for years, so it’s our pleasure to be a pilot company,” she said.
Aitch noted the United Way video features Sarah Dierker, a St. Clair teacher, and her son, a student in the district, who has been helped through the Pinnochio program offered by Compass Health Network.
“This has been such an exciting campaign and close to my heart since I am an educator by profession,” she said. “Not only does it showcase some wonderful agencies like Compass Health, but it showcases kids and families from our own schools. The Dierker family is an exceptional family and Sarah is a fantastic teacher for St. Clair. As she says in the video ‘need does not discriminate.’ ”
Mercy officials reported the hospital has raised $33,282 toward its goal of $50,000.
“We plan to work hard to get it there before the campaign closes at the end of October,” said hospital President Eric Eoloff, who also is a United Way board member.
One of Mercy’s special events is a raffle for a Kansas City Chiefs game.
The Washington car dealership has a total goal of $5,000, which includes a match by Toyota Motor Sales, for this year’s campaign and has already brought in $1,277 through pledges and donations.
Straatmann Toyota held a company luncheon to show the video and a test drive event. The dealership will host its second Drive-In Movie Night Friday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. with all proceeds going to the United Way.
“With pledges continuing to come in and the other events planned, we are on track to exceed our mark,” said Sam Straatmann. “Even though we only have 19 employees and several of them live outside of Franklin County, the ones who did pledge were very generous. We are excited for our event coming up and hope that we have the nice weather and good turnout.”
Katrina McDonald Fuller, Compass chief of public affairs, said the agency is thrilled to be a pilot company and to be featured in the United Way video this year.
“We consider it a very high honor,” said Fuller. “The Franklin County Area United Way has been a strong partner to Compass Health Network, formerly Crider Health Center, for many years.”
To date, the agency has raised $1,943 from just 32 employees, and that’s only 23 percent reporting.
Compass began its pilot activities by having special United Way banners designed and placed outside its two Franklin County locations in Washington and Union. The agency also has hosted an employee ice cream social and invited its clients to join in.
Additionally, Compass Health’s Harmony House Clubhouse will be featured on the United Way’s agency tour Sept. 13.