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Editorial: United Way fund drive: Your commitment helps

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The United Way of Johnson County has set an ambitious goal for this year’s fundraising campaign, and it will take an extra special local effort to attain it.

During the campaign kickoff breakfast last week, United Way leaders announced a goal of $1.48 million. This represents the highest amount in the organization’s history.

Last year’s campaign raised $1.43 million, meeting the campaign goal. But the effort topped the goal with the help of a challenge grant from the Lilly Endowment. That grant support will not be available this year, so that means every dollar needed to support local efforts will have to come from each of us.

“What we get from the community is what we are able to give out,” United Way executive director Nancy Plake told volunteers at the breakfast.

United Way helps financially support 20 nonprofit agencies in the county, including Reach for Youth, senior centers, Boys and Girls Club, and other organizations. It also manages six programs, such as Fast Track, which supplies a backpack and school supplies to disadvantaged students; Operation Bundle Up, which provides coats for needy kids; and Christmas Angels, which helps bring holiday gifts to children in need.

In total, 37,000 people were helped last year by United Way-funded agencies and programs. While some people were served by more than one United Way agency or program, that still means a significant portion of Johnson County’s nearly 142,000 residents were touched by an agency or program that gets support from the United Way.

The money for the agencies and programs comes from employee pledges, corporate gifts and individual donations. These usually are obtained through campaigns conducted by individual companies and places of business. These campaigns are run by volunteers, and the donations are given freely. Often the money is taken out each paycheck. That way, a $2-a-week or $4-a-week donation can be absorbed by most household budgets, and by year’s end, the total donation almost painlessly tops $100 or $200.

Companies have started working to raise money in early campaigns. So far, eight companies have raised $101,248, or about 7 percent of the campaign goal. Their early contributions were announced at the breakfast.

United Way leaders hope to raise the money for this year’s goal by adding more employee campaigns in manufacturing and health care in the county and conducting a phone-a-thon to bring in more donations from individuals.

Plake said manufacturing companies in the county are hiring, and historically the sector has been one of the largest to give. And some local health care companies don’t yet run campaigns.

“We’re optimistic manufacturing is coming back to the county, and those employers are giving back,” Plake said.

But not all businesses conduct campaigns, and not all people are part of an organized fundraising effort. So if your place of business doesn’t stage a United Way drive, start one. The folks at the United Way office would be glad to help out. If you are an individual, give a gift on your own. If you can’t afford to write a big check now, write smaller ones spaced throughout the year.

The United Way campaign is a clear example of neighbors helping neighbors. If each of us commits just a little each week, thousands of people across Johnson County can be served.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “Planting seeds of hope in Johnson County.” With your help, we can reap a harvest of happiness.

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