The United Way of Bartholomew County is celebrating its fifth straight record campaign, reaching $4.24 million for 2015, about $40,000 more than the prior year.

Sarah Haefner, the nonprofit agency’s director of resource development, made the announcement Tuesday before about 300 nonprofit and community leaders at the Factory 12 Event Loft in Columbus.

Local United Way president Mark Stewart has seen nothing but records since coming aboard as the agency leader in 2012, but he passes on the credit to a strong spirit of caring and giving.

“We live in an amazing community and I am always humbled by just how generous we are,” Stewart said. “Not just money, but in time, effort and expertise.”

The crowd stood and applauded the new total — but not before a series of nonprofit agency leaders stood, one by one, at the end of the gathering and thanked nine business and industry campaign leaders whom Haefner called to the front as representatives of all campaign volunteers.

Sheryl Adams, executive director of Sans Souci, helping the struggling attain self-sufficiency, told the leaders their work helped her agency provide more than $100,000 in goods from its thrift store last year.

Chuck Kime, Foundation For Youth executive director, thanked them for helping fund programs that teach youth character development, among other things. Lisa Shafran, president of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, thanked them for making it possible for 325 children to sleep safely in the agency’s shelter.

All told, services of United Way agencies reached more than 25,000 people in 2015 — nearly one-third of Bartholomew County residents.

The campaign total averages $54 of giving per county resident, ranking as Indiana’s highest per-capita giving for more than a decade among the state’s 61 United Way organizations. Some other campaigns across the state have not yet announced 2015 figures, however.

The fundraising supports 20 local 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.

Financial stability — including getting people into better, full-time jobs with insurance coverage — still is the top goal for United Way, by using a variety of its programs, Stewart said.

This campaign’s contributions range from allowance money donated by area school children — one Taylorsville Elementary fifth-grader, Chris Perez, gave $40 he had saved for some time — to thousands of employee dollars matched by corporations, according to campaign organizers.

Chris Price, departing United Way board chair, explained some of the success matter of factly.

“United Way has continued to build upon all that has gone before,” Price said.

That building toward success, as outlined by Stewart in one rapid-fire segment of his remarks, has included United Way volunteers serving meals to the needy, reading to third-graders, coaching sports teams, mentoring teens, constructing ramps for people with disabilities, cleaning up the People Trail, teaching high school students about financial literacy, and a litany of other selfless efforts.

Tom Brosey, new United Way board chair, said he thought following the latest success would be a challenge. But he said leaders already have met to discuss new strategies for helping those needing some form of outreach or assistance.

He added that he long has been impressed by United Way’s stewardship of funds. In more recent years, that has included merging or blending some agencies or programs to save money and avoid service duplication.

2015 United Way by the numbers

25,000: Number of people reached by some form of United Way agency services

8,137: People educated on abuse prevention

6,643: Children supported in and out of the classroom via after-school and other programs

4,600: Number of Volunteer Action Center volunteers

410: Number of disabled people helped to live more independently

United Way awards
  • Agency leader: Lisa Shafran, president of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services. Part of her success: Boosting the budget by 30 percent.
  • Give: Faurecia, which doubled its campaign total over 2014.
  • Give: Dr. Donnamarie Loescher and Dr. Rolf Loescher.
  • Give: Taylorsville Elementary School, which doubled its contribution from 2014.
  • Advocate: Suzanne Diehn of Columbus Signature Academy Fodrea for teaching students about United Way and being an all-around advocate.
  • Volunteer: Lee Swanson.
  • Live United: Steve Knott of Master Power Transmission.

Board member departs

Rich Gold, who said he served on the United Way of Bartholomew County board for six years, was honored for his service Tuesday as he rolled off his post.

Gold will continue to serve the overall cause by now working as a board member for Su Casa Columbus, which builds bridges between the county’s Hispanic and non-Hispanic population.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.