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Editorial: United Way efforts need support from community

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Last week, more than 350 people fanned out across Johnson County to help agencies that the United Way serves.

The Day of Caring each year marks the start of the annual fundraising campaign for the United Way of Johnson County.

The volunteers do tasks for the agencies that often get delayed because of the press of day-to-day duties and activities. Girls Inc. executive director Sonya Ware-Meguiar expressed a common feeling among agency directors: “We would have to do our normal jobs and then do stuff that they are doing.”

Or this from Kim Russell, director of Head Start: “Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to pull the weeds on the playground. It was a mess before they started coming here to help.”

During the event, some volunteers get a chance to give back after they have been helped by a United Way agency or program. For others, it’s an eye-opener about what the United Way does and allows those who donate to the agency to see where their money goes.

For example, Amy Schilk with Homeview Health and Rehab knew that the United Way existed. But she said that until she decided to volunteer she didn’t know it served numerous agencies and helped many people around the community.

“I had no idea about United Way until they came to Homeview,” she said. “I had no idea they help as many people as they do.”

The United Way of Johnson County distributes money to 19 nonprofit agencies. In addition, the money funds eight United Way programs, including the Fast Track school supply effort; Operation Bundle Up, which provides coats for children in need; and Christmas Angels, which helps disadvantaged families give holiday gifts to their children.

In all, 42,000 people were helped last year by United Way-funded agencies and programs. That represents three out of every 10 Johnson County residents.

But these efforts cannot succeed without your help.

This year’s campaign goal is a record $1.45 million. It’s admittedly ambitious, but the beauty of the United Way is that everyone’s small gifts are combined to make a major impact. So give what you can, whether it’s a few dollars a week or a major one-time gift.

Most of us will donate through workplace campaigns. If yours doesn’t have a campaign, contact the United Way and start one or give a gift directly to the campaign.

As another Day of Caring volunteer put it as he helped a local agency: “I always thought, ‘That could have been me.’”

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