That’s a magic number as the record $4 million target for the United Way of Bartholomew County fundraising campaign was launched Tuesday morning before 170 people during a breakfast at Columbus’ Amazing Joe’s restaurant.
The 126 represents the number of known area companies with no in-house United Way campaign, according to Jan Harris, United Way’s resource and development director.
Leaders said if they can persuade many of those businesses to launch an in-house campaign promotion, it would generate the nearly $300,000 needed to top last campaign’s record $3.7 million.
Campaign money supports 29 nonprofit agencies and programs, including projects for mentors of at-risk youth, programs to keep seniors fit and active, and community centers offering fellowship to child care, among other efforts.
Last year’s total ranked No. 1 in the state for the ninth straight year among 62 Hoosier United Way organizations for per-capita giving at slightly more than $50 per resident.
Campaign leaders also said they’re currently counting up to $332,000 in matching funds from Lilly Endowment as extra cash — not part of the new target. Lilly last made such money available to United Way organizations two years ago.
Leaders talked quietly Tuesday as they mingled among tables in the restaurant dining room, rather than presenting a standard collection of speeches in a pep rally-style atmosphere as in years past.
“Environments change,” campaign chairman Chris Price said. “Businesses change. People change.”
A segment of Amazing Joe’s staff worked the event as a volunteer effort for the cause. Even food suppliers donated the event’s breakfast food, according to organizers.
“I consider United Way like a big brother to the community,” said Nick Grams, Amazing Joe’s managing partner, donning a United Way polo shirt. “And this is a way for us to give back.”
Harris said United Way leaders held a fantasy sports league-style draft of firms to call on to ask about supporting the cause.
“We have some pretty big manufacturing companies that have no campaign,” Harris said. “Maybe a few years ago when we asked them, it was a bad time for them.”
Despite many of the campaign volunteers’ relative youth — most are younger than 40, and many are in their 20s — others boast sales experience, which Harris said can help.
Price, who has worked for Cummins Inc. in various locales for more than 30 years, said he expects the firm’s employees to lead the fundraising charge as it has for years and be an example of generosity for others.
“The example they set,” Price said, “can be what we all aspire to.”
If you can help...
Upcoming volunteer opportunities for special events.
Sept. 22: “Mill Race Race,” sponsored by Healthy Communities. Help needed for setting up, registering participants, manning water stations, directing traffic and cleaning up.
Oct. 27: “Night of a Thousand Jacks”, sponsored by Court-Appointed Special Advocates. Help needed to run concessions, coordinate setup and teardown, recruit entries, marketing and run events.
For more information about these or ongoing volunteer opportunities, contact Angie Huebel at (812) 314-2706 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.