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'TUGGING ON HEARTS': Annual campaign to unite good people with a good cause

October 19, 2012

COLUMBIA CITY — Give hope, change lives — that is the mission for the United Way of Whitley County Inc.’s Live United Campaign for 2012. Executive Director Cindy Baker is working to compel Whitley County residents and businesses to invest in the annual campaign that will fund the nonprofit’s work over the next year.
Baker said the goal is $190,000 by the end of November. “The community piece will go until the end of November, but some of the bigger companies collect donations through December and January.”
This is Baker’s first year to oversee the campaign. She has turned to Co-Campaign Chairmen Jacie Worrick and June Keiser to solicit the small business community for financial support. But in the face of economic strain, companies may question if the few dollars they have free for donations can really make a difference.
Keiser said, “The little amounts add up and every little bit helps. Any contribution can make a difference.”
Baker said if multiple businesses will give $25 or $50 dollars it will add up to a significant amount of money. “If everyone would give their fair share it will add up.”
What makes the campaign so beneficial are the three areas of focus the United Way concentrates on –education, income and community chest.
The community chest category encompasses special projects and programs that would better the community. An example of an agency tapping into the United Way’s community chest is the American Red Cross. Helping families become self–sufficient and agencies that provide financial assistance and support is what the income category is used for. Local agencies that benefit from the United Way’s financial support in this category are B.A.B.E., The Lighthouse and the YWCA’s and Whitley County’s Domestic Violence Task Force. But what is on the forefront of this year’s campaign is the education category.
A new initiative in the education category centers around partnerships with local schools. “We want to get kids through their formal education and graduation, “ said Baker. “We are looking at adding a mentoring and coaching program for students that would match them up with teachers.”
The education focus is a big part of the campaign’s theme – Live United. “The future of Whitley County is dependent on the education of students,” Baker said. “Statistics show that students who know how to read by third grade will stay in school and will be better off entering college or trade schools.”
Baker and her team agree that even though businesses especially may not see a direct return, the fact that the community is improving makes it a good investment.
Worrick said statistics show one out of four people in Whitley County benefit from the United Way and the agencies it supports. “We are all just one step away from needing the United Way’s services.”
The list of nonprofit groups that partner with the United Way would be familiar to most Whitley County residents. Passages, The Center for Whitley County Youth, Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana, Whitley County Council on Aging, Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana and the Salvation Army of Whitley County are just a few of the organizations that benefit from the United Way and in turn will benefit from the current funding campaign.
Keiser said, “Shawn Ellis, who is a part of the campaign said, ‘The campaign is tugging on the heart of the community to support the United Way.’ If we tug at the heart, they will give their biggest and best gift.”
Dave Smith, a United Way contributor, told Worrick that he considers the United Way as his mutual fund account. “He gives and those dollars multiply to touch lots and lots of lives.”
Come 2013, the United Way will be able to help even more organizations. According to Baker, policies and procedures will open up to allow for other groups to apply for money through the United Way.
“It has been in the past that organizations had to fill out an application to become a United Way agency. When we make the change next year, any 501(c)(3) group can submit a proposal for funds,” said Baker. “That will give us the chance to help a lot more people and give money to groups that may not need help every single year.”
As more and more nonprofits partner with the United Way, Baker said the individuals that make up the board for Whitley County’s United Way will continue to be good stewards of the donations they are overseeing.
“We want to make sure there isn’t a duplication of services. The reality is, there is a big need in our community. All of these agencies serve a purpose and we are here to help fund their missions,” Baker said.
Donors are able to designate their gift in the direction of a particular agency. Keiser said, “This is a great idea for companies that want to get behind a particular group.
“We’ve gone through some changes and we’ve lost some of our momentum, but this is the year to turn things around, “said Baker about the United Way’s past fundraising efforts.
“I want people to really understand how much the United Way does to reinvest in this community, “ Baker said. “This campaign is so important. If we can reach our goal, we can do so much good for the area. And the bottom line is, we are all united in some way. Together we can make Whitley County the premier place to live, work and raise our families.”
To donate to the Live United campaign for 2012, contributions can be mailed to P.O. Box 464, Columbia City, IN 46725. Businesses interested in corporate contributions can contact Worrick and Keiser at J&J Insurance, 244-6174. For more information on the United Way, call 244-6454.

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