After years of emotional abuse by a relative, the teens were using drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress.
Michelle Skeen took her stepchildren to Reach for Youth, a nonprofit counseling program in the county, where they met with counselors weekly to work through the issues and look to the future.
Now, her stepchildren have graduated from high school and are thinking about attending college, and the Whiteland mother credits that to the counseling they received through the program, which receives support from the United Way of Johnson County.
Skeen shared her story with about 300 people at the United Way kickoff breakfast Thursday. The agency announced its fundraising goal of $1.48 million, the highest amount the group has ever tried to raise.
United Way helps support financially 20 nonprofit agencies in the county, including Reach for Youth, and runs eight programs, such as Operation Bundle Up and Christmas Angels. In total, 37,000 people were helped last year by United Way-funded agencies and programs.
“What we get from the community is what we are able to give out,” United Way executive director Nancy Plake said.
The money for the agencies and programs comes from employee pledges, corporate gifts and individual donations. Last year, the agency also got a grant from the Lilly Endowment that contributed about $129,000. But this year, United Way is not getting a similar grant and instead will have to raise all the money needed through employee campaigns and donations.
Last year’s campaign raised $1.43 million, meeting the campaign goal.
The new goal is about a 3.6 percent increase from last year, which is needed to help cover increased costs for local agencies.
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 using a parody of the “Old MacDonald” children’s song during the farm-themed 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, she said.
“We’re optimistic manufacturing is coming back to the county, and those employers are giving back,” Plake said.