Lighting the Way with Hope - Franklin County Area United Way

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The United Way helps to “light the way with hope” by strengthening families, nurturing children, assisting the elderly and disabled, and providing emergency services to citizens of Franklin County.

Currently located in scenic downtown Washington, the Franklin County Area United Way was formed in Washington in 1953 and was originally called the Community Chest. There were twelve original members, including the first president Henry Hartbauer; Kenny Kruel, Chamber of Commerce president; and John Feltman, owner of Modern Auto. The name of the organization changed in 1957 to the United Fund of Washington, Inc. which it remained until 2001, when it was changed to the Franklin County Area United Way. Originally, fundraising efforts remained only in Washington while assistance was given to all corners of Franklin County. In 2001, with the name change came additional opportunities for fundraising throughout the county. All of the money raised in Franklin County stays in Franklin County. Only 15.7% is used for administrative costs, giving 84.3% back to the citizens.

The “Lighting the Way with Hope” campaign began September 6 and will continue through October 31. The goal for the 2011 campaign is $886,625. As it was in last year’s campaign, this year will prove to be one of the most challenging in fundraising for the organization. The agencies have seen a steady increase of those in need as citizens have exhausted all of their resources; savings, 401Ks, home equity loans, family and friends, everyone is maxed out. This is where the United Way comes in, providing over 40 agencies with additional funds to not only help those in need, but also community members who receive general services. United Way Vice President and Campaign Chair Brad Mitchell said, “If you are in a room in Franklin County with a group of people, each person in that room has either been helped by the United Way themselves or knows someone who has been helped at some point.” The United Way plays a vital role in area organizations, including the local 4-H Clubs, FFA Chapters, YMCA, Senior Centers, and Scouts, in addition to their helping the needy.

Within the current campaign, the United Way is hosting a few great events the community is invited to attend. The 11th Annual Chili Cook-Off will be held September 23 at the Main & Elm lot in historic downtown Washington, Missouri. All of the proceeds of this event are donated to the United Way. This year’s theme is “Game Shows”.

Wolf Hollow Golf Club will be hosting the 11th Annual Benefit Golf Classic on October 7. Lunch and check-ins starts at 11:00 a.m. with a shotgun start at noon, and a prime rib dinner at 5:00 p.m. Those who would like to participate as a golfer, a sponsor, or just attend the dinner may contact the United Way office at 636-239-1018. Also on October 7, the City of Washington will be hosting a Golf Ball Drop at the City Fairgrounds. A helicopter will drop 1000 golf balls, each of which have been purchased, and the golf ball that goes into the hole or gets closest will win $1,000. There are also monetary prizes for 2nd and 3rd place.

The ever exciting “Power of the Purse” event will be held October 20 at the newly remodeled Hagie’s 19 in Union. Featuring male community leaders as the models, this event continues to prove to be a good time for all year after year. Name brand purses will be available for bids following the fashion show by the outstanding models, along with free appetizers and wine.  Events are a great way to donate while having fun.

Other than monetary donations, there are several groups and agencies that seek volunteers. These include the Exceptional Equestrians, Pregnancy Assistance Center, Loving Hearts Outreach, Community Outreach, and the Pacific Agape House. Mitchell stated that working in these facilities really opens one’s eyes to the need in our area. Sandy Crider of Loving Hearts Outreach made the United Way office aware that they see an average of 147 people each day.

According to United Way Executive Director Paula Obermark, “The need continues to grow. The agencies are telling us that 7 out of every 10 clients that are requesting food are new to the agency.” Senior citizens are historically a very frugal group of the community. However, with children and grandchildren beginning to move in with them due to their own hardships or because of the rising cost of living, the seniors now have to choose food over their medications. This is something the United Way is trying to change. “There is no age discrimination,” Mitchell stated, “no one is immune” to hardships in today’s economy.

The United Way assists over 40 agencies in Franklin County in the categories of Abuse Crisis Intervention, Children and Youth Services, Developmental Disability Services, Emergency Services, Food Pantries and Thrift Shops, Health Services, Legal Services, Mental Health Services, and Senior Services. Some of the agencies included are ALIVE, Children’s Advocacy Center of East Central Missouri, Exceptional Equestrians of the Missouri Valley, Gerald Community Outreach, Pregnancy Assistance Center, Lutheran Family & Children Services, and the New Haven Senior Center.

In 2010, the United Way allocated $29,156 to assist 2,488 New Haven residents and $17,189 to assist 918 Gerald residents through 30 agencies. For more information, please visit www.franklincountyuw.org.

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