Most things change over the years. One that hasn’t is the Franklin County Area United Way’s core mission. What was true in the 1950s for the United Way still holds true in 2020.
What is different this year is the way the organization will conduct its annual campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most organizations, the United Way is forced to adjust in the midst of a public health crisis.
As Kim Strubberg, executive director of the Franklin County Area United Way, explained, the pandemic doesn’t discriminate and that’s why the theme for the campaign this year is “Improving Lives. Now More Than Ever.”
She added that one in three people in Franklin County are helped in some form by the United Way’s 53 member agencies. That says something about the reach of the United Way’s partners.
When the United Way began in the 1950s as the Community Chest in Washington, among its objectives was to eliminate the large number of fundraising campaigns every year. It seemed like there was a campaign going on every week, with some campaigns overlapping. That created a serious drain on leadership for the many individual campaigns. Leaders were getting “burned out” since there were so many drives for funds.
The numerous drives also were wearing out contributors. Funds for some needs and organizations were lacking. The area was growing. With the growth, the need to serve more became apparent.
The united way of giving was sold to people in Washington first and then expanded countywide with noted success, proving the worth of the organization.
Agencies were added as more needs became evident. Every member agency is screened and held accountable for funds received. That accountability has served the United Way and its partners well. Contributors to the United Way trust that the organization has vetted its member agencies.
Eventually, the decision was made by the volunteer leaders to affiliate with the St. Louis United Way, which offered expertise and support in conducting campaigns. It added strength to the organization and the merger has been a success story. Even with that affiliation, every dollar raised in Franklin County stays in the county. That is important to remember.
The local United Way leadership has been outstanding over the years. The volunteer forces, along with the professional staff, have proven to be a winning combination. It is proof-positive that in Franklin County we have caring and competent leaders willing to make personal sacrifices and lend their time and talents to help others.
Because of the pandemic, the organization has not expressed a specific fundraising goal for this year’s campaign. The goal is to raise as much money as possible to help as many people as possible.
It’s as simple and straightforward as that. It is also something people should be to able to understand, relate to and rally around.
Last year, the Franklin County Area United Way surpassed its goal and allocated more than $1 million to help those in need. It was, as has been the case in past campaigns, truly phenomenal.
This year is obviously different — for everyone. The leaders in the campaign know times are tough for many people. Individual budgets are stretched to the limit.
However, when the going get tough, Franklin Countians have proven they can rise to the challenge. We are confident that will be the case this year for the United Way. People will do what they can to contribute to the United Way because of its solid record of helping people in need and strengthening the quality of life here.
Now more than ever the United Way needs our help. Let’s not let them down.