Local United Way making a difference

Published 8:00 pm Monday, October 15, 2018

A helping hand in the community is not too far away. With the help of this community, 85 homeless women and children received shelter, job training and permanent housing assistance, 40 children received mentoring, homework and tutorial assistance and 154 senior citizens were delivered nutritious meals without the hassle of leaving their home. These are just a few examples of how campaign dollars, donated to the United Way of West Central Mississippi, impacted the community in 2017.

Each year, the United Way’s campaign cabinet sits down and sets out goals for each campaign. “This year our campaign cabinet reviewed each category and decided that our overall goal will be to raise more money than we did last year,” United Way of West Central Mississippi Executive Director Michele Connelly said. During last year’s campaign, $717,500 was raised.

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Two years ago, instead of focusing on the dollars raised, the United Way placed its focus on the impact those dollars have in our communities through the work of our partner agencies.

“As a millennial, it was important to me to know exactly where my dollar was going and that it was supporting something I was passionate about. United Way checks all those boxes for me,” Kami May, director of marketing and community relations said.

Through programs supported by the United Way, the adult obesity rate has decreased by four percent over the past three years. Over all in our service area, United Way programs have helped increase the graduation rate by 10 percent in a six-year span. Forty-six percent of the children in United Way’s service area live in poverty. United Way campaign dollars have decreased the child poverty percentage by six percent in the past three years.

“The excitement revolving around this year’s campaign is impeccable,” Connelly said.

Supper on the ‘Sip

The excitement started with one of the most unique campaign kickoffs United Way has ever done. Supper on the ‘Sip: Dine and Stroll the Old Mississippi River Bridge was a great success for the organization’s 19 partner agencies. Every dollar raised in ticket sales will go directly to those agencies.

“After recap meetings, we have decided to make this event an annual one,” May said. Tickets for next year’s event go on sale Aug. 1.

“The success, excitement, and fun of this event was amazing, but we have to remember why we were all there,” Connelly said. “We were there to share our United Way story and the story of our agencies and to kick off the campaign season.”

The campaign excitement did not stop at Supper on the ‘Sip. It has also poured out into businesses and organizations throughout the community.

“We have already marketed several speaking engagements and special events. Organizations and business such as the Warren County Courthouse are doing a raffle with all proceeds going directly to the United Way campaign,” said Heidi Burrell, director of resource development. “It is things like this that will help us achieve our goal of raising more money than we did last year.”

The task of raising over half a million dollars is not an easy one, and with five employees at the United Way it is nearly impossible. That is why United Way builds a campaign cabinet bursting with amazing community leaders who embrace the mission of United Way. This year’s cabinet is under the direction of Lynn Foley.

“I had been involved in the community through various business organizations for many years,” Foley said. “At the end of my tenure as Chamber of Commerce president, I realized that it was time for me to give back to the community in a different way. I knew immediately that I could do that through United Way.”

The campaign cabinet is made up of 17 people from all walks of life willing to make a difference in United Way’s service area, which includes Warren, Sharkey, Issaquena, Claiborne and Yazoo counties, and a portion of Madison Parish in Louisiana.

“I’ve learned so much these last few years about United Way and the major impact it has in our community. They truly affect individual’s lives every minute of every day,” Foley said. “It is an honor to know I am a part of that community outreach; albeit in a very small way.”

If interested in contributing to United Way of West Central Mississippi’s campaign, call 601-636-1733 or text the word ‘Promote’ to 41444 and make a donation.