The small-business, corporate and individual giving that powers the United Way of Bartholomew County  increased the money available to help one-third of the county’s residents in a meaningful way.

Fall 2017 campaign results, announced Tuesday, hit $4.15 million, about $40,000 more than was donated a year earlier. The campaign total was announced at the United Way’s annual meeting, titled “You Can Change Our Story.”

Year-over-year increases were reported with regularity until the 2016 campaign came up $130,000 short of the prior year. Until then, United Way reported five straight years of higher year-over-year giving.

As recently as two weeks ago, United Way president Mark Stewart said it appeared that the 2017 drive might end below the 2016 tally.

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However, the total ended up 1 percent higher than the previous year.

“We all pulled us to this finish line,” said Kyle Hendricks, United Way’s communications and marketing manager, in a lighthearted, symbolic, hiking scene he acted out near the end of the meeting with Whittney Loyd, the agency’s resource development director.

“You all are working so hard to change the story for so many others,” Loyd said.

The campaign-ending announcement was made in front of about 270 people at The Commons.

“People think fundraising comes rather easy,” said Mark Stewart, United Way president. “But I can assure you that it doesn’t.”

The campaign that began Sept. 16 funds 21 nonprofit agencies leading 33 programs, reaching an estimated 25,000 of the county’s 77,000 residents, according to United Way figures. Programs range from children and youth mentoring to senior mental and physical fitness and helping the unemployed and underemployed find work.

All donations go directly to area social service work since United Way has recruited separate supporters to cover its administrative and overhead costs.

The campaign benefited from a variety of volunteers, supporters and donors.

Loyd highlighted small six-member companies such as Kemper CPA Group as one of the new campaigns, to the corporate Top 10 givers, in no particular order: Cummins Inc.; Faurecia; Enkei America; Toyota Industrial Manufacturing; Dorel Juvenile Group; Columbus Regional Health; Centra Credit Union; Reams Asset Management; Master Power Transmission; and NTN Driveshaft.

Avenues of opportunity

Besides the fundraising that makes United Way’s social service effort possible, Monday’s meeting included a brief update on the agency’s Avenues of Opportunity initiative aimed at lowering the local poverty rate on a broad scale over several years.

Stewart pointed out that the work currently includes 243 clients working toward self-sufficiency with the help of six United Way agencies. Sans Souci, for example, currently is helping 28 people with “a hand up rather than a handout,” as Stewart put it. All of those people have jobs, health insurance, a growing savings account, and 15 percent are enrolled as students at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus.

Stewart mentioned that the economic mobility that is the heart of the Avenues of Opportunity project is influenced by social class, gender, race and ethnicity.

“At United Way, we understand that if we are really serious about providing meaningful opportunity for everyone, we must examine ourselves and intentionally build inclusion into everything we do,” he said.

United Way campaign totals

Results from the past several years’ fundraising. The year refers to the campaign’s fall launch:

  • 2017: $4.15 million
  • 2016: $4.11 million
  • 2015: $4.24 million
  • 2014: $4.2 million
  • 2013: $4.08 million
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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.