United Way celebrates contributions to 2008 campaign

Sunday, March 29, 2009
ELIZABETH DODD ~ edoddsemissourian.com
At the 2008 United Way campaign celebration at Cape West 14 Cine Thursday United Way cabinet members Holly Lintner, from right, Jay Wolz, Dale Rauh, Heather Brooks, Angie Umfleet, John Thompson and Jim Maxwell hold up numbers representing that United Way raised $1,175,531.94 in 2008.

The United Way of Southeast Missouri celebrated its 2008 campaign completion and successes with a lunch and at Cape West 14 Cine Thursday.

Under the 2008 campaign theme, "Live United," United Way raised $1,175,531.94. The number comes in $100,000 short of their contribution goal of $1,275,000.

"The majority of United Way organizations have received five to 10 percent less in overall donations this last year," said Nancy Jernigan, executive director at the United Way.

Donations may have been down across the board, but John McGowan, United Way director of community impact, said Southeast Missourians have been generous.

"We've done better than many United Way organizations of the same size," he said. "The citizens of Cape Girardeau and Jackson support us in their time, talent and treasure."

With more than 100 people in attendance, the campaign celebration highlighted the giving, the work and the efforts of all the supporters from the past year. The "Step Up Campaign," which asked individual donors to increase their giving by $1 per week, raised an additional $98,000 from the previous year.

"The United Way is in the process of transforming from a focus on fundraising to community impact," Jernigan said.

She said the organization does this by spotlighting what it believes to be the building blocks of a strong family and a good life: education, income and health.

"Programs come and go and there is no trust with the local neighborhoods," Jernigan said. "We want people to see we are not just funding agencies, but we are getting to the root people."

Monthly meetings with area businesses, schools, mental health organizations, churches and community groups work toward developing ways to answer the area's needs.

"When children are prepared for college and the workforce, it affects the entire community," Jernigan said.

She said the United Way has dealt with disasters before.

"In past years, the obstacle was 9/11, natural disasters or health insurance," Jernigan said. "But in such times, people see the need to support."

Board members are waiting to see the full extent of the economy's effects.

"The paradox is that the [contribution] need has never been greater as the economy goes, and there is a huge need to provide a safety net," said Jay Wolz, the 2008 Campaign Chair. "Still, the amount raised this last year is the third highest in our history."

After confirming anticipated gifts with their top 20 supporters, the United Way will set the next year's goals at their 2009 Campaign Kickoff in August.

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