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Editorial: United Way gifts reflect spirit of generosity

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THERE will be a great deal of reading between the lines as local residents assess what has turned out to be another record fund drive on behalf of the United Way of Bartholomew County.

As final totals are tallied in the weeks ahead, many of those who are affected by this organization will be seeking to determine contribution levels from the various campaign sectors, how much each of the United Way agencies might expect in the allocation process and how much of the money collected will remain in Bartholomew County.

The major finding that should emerge from the record $3.8 million that has been raised to date is that this is a community of generous givers.

The amount pledged so far — ahead of the previous record of $3.7 million raised last year — is not a final total. Organizers are still canvassing several potential contributors and are hopeful of meeting the ambitious $4 million goal set several months ago.

The number raised so far is a remarkable achievement in its own right, but it is even more noteworthy because of some unique conditions faced by organizers.

This was the first fund drive under Mark Stewart’s watch as president of the local United Way. Stewart had stepped into the position held for 19 years by the energetic Doug Otto, who was celebrated for setting and achieving ambitious fund drive goals. The record of this year’s campaign strongly suggest that the handover of the reins was tremendously successful.

This year’s campaign staff, headed by chairman Chris Elliott, also put together a winning strategy with practically every sector registering major gains.

But the real heroes of this effort have to be the thousands of people and organizations in Bartholomew County who continued a long tradition of giving back to their community.

The manufacturing sector especially stepped to the plate, led — not surprisingly — by the county’s leading employer, Cummins Inc. Employees at the Columbus-based engine maker alone contributed a record $1.1 million.

That total is all the more impressive because of the conditions under which the money was raised. In the fall of 2012, the company announced it would have to lay off a number of workers at operations around the world, including some in Bartholomew County.

The final total is not the only unanswered question to emerge from the campaign. Agencies that receive United Way funding won’t know for several months what their allocation will be. Those allocations will be determined in part by the amounts that are donor-designated. In the previous campaign, roughly 25 percent of funds were donor-designated.

The amount staying in Bartholomew County also will be affected by the number of workers at firms in Bartholomew County who live elsewhere. About 13 percent of the funds collected here in the past have appropriately been diverted to other counties.

Nevertheless, this year’s fund drive still has to be viewed as a tremendous success in which so many can take justifiable pride.

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