The 57th annual United Way of Union County campaign kicked off Tuesday, Aug. 26, with the goal of raising $1 million for the second consecutive year.
The campaign kickoff breakfast brought together 80 representatives from dozens of local businesses at Der Dutchman Restaurant in Plain City.
"This is a very aggressive goal, and we know that," said Mike Rose, controller at Union Rural Electric, who is serving as this year's campaign chairman.
"But the needs of Union County continue to grow. Every year, when we meet to determine funding to our agencies, we go in knowing that we cannot meet every request. It is very tough to look those people in the eye and tell them we don't have enough to go around. Those of us involved with United Way would love to have a time where we could meet every request for every agency."
Last year's fall fundraiser achieved record-level giving of $960,000, a 4 percent increase from 2012, Rose said. United Way's partner agencies are requesting a 13 percent increase in funding this year.
"Union County is the third-fastest-growing community in the state," said Chip Hubbs, president and CEO of Memorial Hospital of Union County.
"We are on the verge of moving from an agrarian and bedroom community into a suburb. With that, our population is growing significantly and our issues are changing. Not only are we adding agencies every couple of years, our issues have changed. So it's not just a matter of sustaining our current agencies. We have new problems that require new agencies and new solutions."
Local donations to United Way stay in Union County, supporting six pantries, four senior centers, two shelters, an after-school youth center and a homeless prevention program. They also help to provide disaster relief, prescription medication, hospice care, cancer support, youth activities and other programs.
Trained volunteers engage in a five-month process to determine how to best spend donor dollars, Rose said. They review all program funding requests from United Way's 26 partner agencies. They meet and interview staff and volunteers from these entities. They assess how far dollars would go at each agency and make funding recommendations in January that stretch donations to make the greatest possible impact in Union County.
"We have assembled a nice cross-section of volunteers who are passionate about United Way and are striving to hit our $1 million goal," Rose said. "We will need all hands on deck. We need everyone to know the impact United Way makes on the residents of Union County."
Donors may designate their gift to a specific "Impact Area" or program. When that occurs, dollars are earmarked specifically for those programs, minus fundraising and administrative costs, which are currently 19 percent, according to United Way officials.
"United Way fills a ton of gaps in the community. We do our part, subsidizing the Memorial Meals program (Meals on Wheels)," Hubbs said. "We can only take it so far. United Way funding helps us to fill that gap."
Three fundraising events will be held this fall:
* United Way's annual online auction of in-kind product and service donations will be held in October at unitedwayofunioncounty.org.
* The Honor Our Heroes Quarter Marathon and 5K will be held Nov. 1 at Glacier Ridge Metro Park. Running, walking and sponsorship opportunities are available.
* True Oldies 1270 radio will host the LIVE UNITED Radiothon Nov. 20, featuring United Way-themed programming to encourage listeners to call in with pledges.
For more information or to make a donation online, visit unitedwayofunioncounty.org. Donors also can mail checks made payable to United Way of Union County to P.O. Box 145, Marysville, Ohio, 43040.