United Way sets lofty fundraising goals

Published 12:45 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dorsey Johnson proudly displayed his “Live United” T-shirt Friday afternoon during the kickoff of the 2011 United Way of West Central Mississippi fundraising campaign on Friday at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

“We just don’t wear this shirt,” said Johnson, co-director of the Cary Christian Center in Sharkey County, “…we live it.”

Johnson was among a group of people at the kickoff gathering where organizers are hoping to raise $1.4 million, about $46,000 more than was raised in 2010.

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“We’re very excited,” said executive director Barbara Tolliver, also wearing a “Live United” T-shirt. “Everybody seems to be pumped up and ready to go. There’s no doubt about it … we will be successful with year’s campaign.

“Times are still tough for a lot of people. We want to be realistic with what’s happening nationally, but at the same time, we know this is the most giving community and we know people are going to step up to the plate.”

Last year, the campaign raised $1,354,946, or 96 percent of its goal.

Cary Christian Center, which opened 40 years ago, was added last year to United Way’s roster of agencies it serves, growing the list to 21. The Cary center received $19,500 to fund prenatal parenting classes for up to 80 people, dental education and other outreach programs.

“Today, right now, they are helping us,” co-director Carolyn Newhof said Friday. “We couldn’t do anything more before because we didn’t have the funding.”

The center, funded mainly through national church organizations and donations, operates on a $1.3 million budget assisting people in the Mississippi Delta.

While the campaign officially began Friday, fundraising efforts were completed by the Pacesetters, a group of 16 businesses and the Vicksburg Warren School District, Vicksburg Catholic School, Porters Chapel Academy and Hinds Community College. The Pacesetters group has already collected $538,115, or 38 percent of the goal. This year, River Region Health System, Guaranty Bank and May and Company joined the Pacesetters. Their campaign started July 6 and ended Wednesday.

This year’s theme is Hands Across Our Community. West Central Mississippi covers Warren, Claiborne, Sharkey, Issaquena and Yazoo counties, and Madison Parish in Louisiana.

“We are stretching out to all of those counties trying embrace the needs and take resources to those counties,” Tolliver said.

Friday’s event included guest speaker Chuck Baldwin, human resource director for Cooper Lighting, a Pacesetter company, and entertainment by Nedra Smith. This year’s campaign chairmen are J.R. Armstrong and Linda Fondren, who will lead a 14-member cabinet through Oct. 31.

United Way’s West Central office opened in 1953 and serves 21 agencies.