United Way of Bartholomew County has completed a fourth-consecutive record campaign, celebrating a push ending at $4.2 million — exceeding last year’s $4.08 million.

The most recent figure averages to a per-capita giving rate of $54 — significant because the local agency has led the state, often by a wide margin, in that category for 11 straight years — and looks to keep that string going, said Roger Frick, president of the Indiana Association of United Ways.

United Way President Mark Stewart spoke Tuesday before the nonprofit agency’s post-campaign gathering, featuring the theme “We Count On You” at the Factory 12 Event Loft in downtown Columbus.

He credited the Sept. 11 Day of Service and Remembrance, organized by the United Way and Volunteer Action Center, as one of the bigger reasons for the community’s generosity and involvement. A local record of 1,700 people completed 30 volunteer projects that day all over the county.

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“At the Day of Service, people got to work with a lot of our agencies and see firsthand much of the work that goes on regularly here,” Stewart said.

He and Jan Harris, United Way’s director of resource development, regularly have said that when people get a hands-on feel for social service’s local impact, they’re more willing to later open their wallet or purse and follow with financial help.

“And at the end of the day, what it comes down to is that this is simply a really generous community,” Stewart said. “People really see value in supporting the community and realize that we’re all in this together.”

The annual campaign supports 20 nonprofit agencies operating 32 programs. They range from mentoring programs to youth and adult sports leagues to senior health and fitness classes.

Since United Way’s figures show that one of three local households struggles to make ends meet, the agency’s top priorities remain addressing struggling residents’ financial stability, education and health, Stewart said. He added that financial stability, including getting people into better, full-time jobs with insurance, still is the top goal for United Way, by using a variety of its programs.

This campaign’s contributions range from pennies donated by area preschoolers to thousands of dollars matched by corporations, according to campaign organizers.

“What is it they say? Money can’t buy you happiness? Or is it love?” Harris said. “However, it can help children be more prepared for school, feed empty stomachs, support those escaping domestic violence, give shelter to a suddenly homeless family, educate families on child care and neglect, get inside the homes of neglected and abused children with advocates, save lives, help in disasters and create safe places for children to learn and play.

“This money can support the programs that give hope to those in greats need. So it kind of does buy love and happiness.”

Campaign totals, 2009 to 2014

A look at the past six years for United Way of Bartholomew County campaigns. Years listed show the late-summer start of each campaign:

2014: $4.2 million*

2013: $4.08 million*

2012: $4.0 million*

2011: $3.8 million*

2010: $3.4 million

2009: $3.2 million

*Denotes record local campaign

United Way award winners

The United Way of Bartholomew County presented these awards Tuesday:

  • Agency Leadership Award: Chuck Kime of Foundation for Youth
  • Give Award: Cross Cliff Head Start/Early Head Start, Toyota Industries North America and Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Inc.
  • Advocate Award: Milestone Contractors and Kroot Corp.
  • Volunteer Award: Jeffrey Crouse
  • Live United Award: Greg Edwards
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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.