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Dressed in compassion


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Help is on the way for Bartholomew County residents who need a hand.

And it’s coming from Cinderella, Harry Potter, the Cat in the Hat and a host of other storybook characters hoping to write an uplifting chapter in the United Way of Bartholomew County’s annual fall fund drive.

In fact, those characters, in the person of dressed-up Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln Campus second-graders, aim to raise $1,000 among all students and teachers by Thursday. The money will go toward the campaign that supports 29 local agencies and programs, from mentoring children to health classes for senior citizens.

That effort is part of the communitywide push to top last year’s record $4 million campaign that also was best in the state for per-capita giving. The drive, expected to wind up by year’s end, stands at $1.9 million (47.5 percent), ahead of last year’s pace by a week or two.

Even though schoolchildren don’t rank among big donors, United Way officials recognize that every dollar makes a difference.

“I think it’s really cool we can do this because helping others makes me feel better,” said 7-year-old Isabella Munoz, one of the second-grade leaders of the drive.

As she spoke the other day in teacher Jill Major’s classroom, Isabella wore a complete Cinderella costume she had made. Like other Lincoln students, she paid $1 or more to dress as a favorite book character. It just so happened that the dress-up day fell on Halloween.

Next week through Thursday, students will “vote” with their money which teacher or staff member will have to kiss a pig Friday outside the school. Last year, students and teachers raised $597. This year, the goal is $1,000 — with the added bonus of Principal Chad Phillips sporting an inflatable tutu costume if the goal is met.

Isabella understands the magic of helping.

Not long ago, she and her father heard of a friend’s family without sufficient clothes. They called United Way and were referred to Sans Souci, a local, nonprofit clothing and furniture store. There, they got what the local family needed.

Another drive leader, 7-year-old Malea Dyette, paid money to United Way to dress as a witch. But in her bright, splashy-colored costume, she looked as sweet and kind as any witch could. And that made sense, because the youngster said she has known students who lived at the local Horizon House homeless shelter, supported partly by United Way.

“The schools really get serious about all this (fundraising),” said Jan Harris, United Way’s director of resource development. “I think one of the things that really help us is that the teachers know how to make this (need) a picture of real life to students. Many of the students are not embarrassed about maybe what they themselves have been through, and they’re serious about wanting to help others.”

Well, that and the other

motivation.

“The kids really want to see one of us have to kiss a pig,” Major said with a laugh.

For the larger community drive, Harris said she recently saw firsthand how much residents who have been helped want to now help others. She said a woman recently came into the United Way office in the Doug Otto Center, 1513 13th St., to say how much Children Inc.’s reduced-fee child care meant to her a few years ago during a crisis. The woman then made a donor-designated gift to Children Inc. for the current campaign.

Harris said other campaign news has been good. For instance, two local banks just closed their company campaigns — with 40 percent higher totals than last year.

Solomon Hall, of CSA Lincoln, said he’s willing to do his part by the end of next week.

“We need to help, especially the people who are poor, to get all the stuff they need,” the 7-year-old said.

How to help

u Go to uwbarthco.org

u Call 314-2702 to donate by phone

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