United Way fundraising campaign begins

Published 11:31 am Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The United Way’s 2015 fundraising campaign is off and running with $19,000 already in the coffers thanks to Saturday’s 5K True Color Run, but the for nonprofit organization, the race to raise cash for the community is far from over.

“Everyone needs to remember that it was kicking something off and we are by no means finished doing what we need to do for our agencies by spreading their message,” said Michele Connelly, the director of United Way of West Central Mississippi.

The agency has a goal of $1,235,000 to raise by the end of October to promote its 22 partner agencies in “advancing the common good in areas of education, health and financial stability,” she said.

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Saturday’s run also put participants face to face with volunteers and employees of United Way agencies. A tent where agencies could spread success stories and information were set up just beyond the finish line. The event replaced an annual kickoff breakfast that few outside agency volunteers and employees attended.

“We wanted to make sure we shared the United Way agencies on a larger stage,” Connelly said.

Agency leaders said the bigger stage Connelly spoke of was a great success.

“It’s a good platform to show our success stories and to let the county know we are out there serving our community the best way we know how — treatment, education and prevention,” said Stacey Waites, director of HIV Services Inc.

The United Way helps make amazing things happen in the community, representatives of its member agencies said.

Among its most vocal supporters Saturday was Nona Cooper of Cary Christian Center in the tiny community of Cary along U.S. 61 in Sharkey County.

“I’ve been here just over two years. The United Way has helped us in so many ways. They promote us a lot. They’ve been instrumental in getting us supporters,” Cooper said.

Before she moved to Sharkey County, Cooper said, she had been a recipient of United Way services.

“They are everywhere,” she said.

The organization also helps builds a sense of community, said Bob Moss of Habitat for Humanity.

“Obviously it helps support little groups like Habitat for Humanity. You really feel like you belong to a larger organization. You fee like you’re working for the whole community,” Moss said.

Many United Way services are aimed at helping children and families excel in the community. Without them, agencies like the Vicksburg CAP Center wouldn’t be able to reach as many young people, said Oneka Washington, a representative of the center.

“The United Way is important to the CAP Center because it’s a community agency that represents not only children but parents as well. We’re trying to eradicate child abuse,” she said.

Haven House board member Angela Brown said United Way funding is crucial for the shelter.

“The United Way does a lot for Haven House. Their sponsorship allows us to help more families who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse. United Way has helped us make a difference,” she said.

Without the support of the United Way fewer children would be able to participate in scouting, said Chris Brown, Scoutmaster for Cub Scout Pack 193.

“We think every child deserves to be in scouting. United Way helps us provide scholarships, so every child can get that chance,” Brown said.

Boys & Girls Club of the Mississippi Delta also uses United Way money to fund its operations throughout the region. When club representative George Dixon returned home from service during the Vietnam War era, the club was a lifesaver.

“As a veteran, there were times that just seeing that Boys and Girls Club symbol and talking to them made a difference,” Dixon said.

United Way support also helps with disaster relief, said Anna Rogers, regional communications director for the American Red Cross.

“We have a strong partnership with the United Way. We’re typically the first responders to a disaster. A lot of the disasters we respond to are home fires. We get people set up with shelter and items they need,” Roger said.

Through the end of the campaign, businesses and individual donors will be contacted for their support. Donors can also donate to the campaign from their mobile phone.

“People will be able to text PROMOTE to 41444 and they will be able to choose the agency they would like to donate to or they will be able to choose United Way and we will make sure that money will be dived up among the agencies,” Connelly said.