In a world where success is often measured by money, the United Way of Bartholomew County has adopted a different attitude.
As the umbrella organization that provides funding and support to 22 social service agencies kicked off its annual fundraising drive Friday, United Way marketing and communications coordinator Kyle Hendricks was more focused on impact than dollars.
Gone are the days when a billboard fundraising thermometer outside the courthouse was the main way residents measured his organization’s success, Hendricks said.
While the United Way has a goal of $4.2 million after raising slightly more than $4.1 million during last year’s campaign, Hendricks feels a more motivating figure should be 8,758 — the number of local children helped last year through United Way-sponsored mentoring and programming.
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That number was up 32 percent from the 6,643 children assisted just one year earlier, Hendricks said.
Based on the 44 percent of children in the Columbus area coming from free- and reduced-price school lunch families, United Way volunteer and Centra Credit Union Jonas Howell said he knew more local children needed help.
In total, one out of three Bartholomew County residents — people of all ages — are helped in some fashion every year through the United Way of Bartholomew County, the organization’s annual report states. That includes 6,792 local residents who turned to the organization’s member agencies last year for basic needs such as food, housing and clothing.
Although many services focus on health and education, there has been recent growth in programs promoting financial responsibility and self-sufficiency, Hendricks said.
“For me, it’s definitely the impact United Way has that motivates me,” said Cummins Inc. employee Frank Whyte, spreading a preservative on wooden furniture outside Just Friends Adult Day Services. “It’s knowing that I can make the lives of other people better.”
Howell and Whyte were two of nearly 400 volunteers who worked on 18 different service projects during Friday’s annual Day Of Service, which traditionally kicks off the local United Way campaign.
This year’s United Way campaign slogan is: “Change starts here. Can we count you in?”
While both Salin Bank and Trust and the First Church of the Nazarene have long been active with United Way charities, both organizations sent volunteers to the Day of Service for the first time Friday, he said.
While the number of Day of Service volunteers was noticeably down from last year, that’s because many say they want to serve their community more than one or two days a year, Hendricks said. According to the agency’s annual report, 8,300 volunteers completed 136 United Way projects in 2016.
This year, there has been at least one service project going on every week, Hendricks said. He cited efforts of United Way Volunteer Action Center director Angie Huebel and her staff for the ongoing volunteerism.
One example of ongoing volunteerism is the relationship Faurecia has established with the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund.
On Friday, 60 employees from Faurecia donated the labor needed to build about 20 mobile shelving units for storing toys for the Cheer Fund to deliver in December. In addition, the Columbus industry contributed about $3,000 worth of building supplies for the project, Cheer Fund co-chairman Chris Owens said.
Earlier this year, Faurecia recruited other automotive suppliers in a successful effort to purchase and assemble 30 bicycles that were donated to the Cheer Fund, Owens said.
“Faurecia has really come on like gangbusters,” Owens said.
Last year, many Day of Service projects took place in residential areas of southeast Columbus. However, the number of residential projects was down this year due to ongoing work being carried out by several neighborhood associations, Hendricks said.
Most of that work has also been carried out by Huebel and her staff, he said.
With needed neighborhood projects down, an effort was made to assist more member agencies located within the Doug Otto United Way Center this year, Hendricks said.