United Way reaches goal of $4.1M

The United Way of Bartholomew County has hit its $4.1 million annual fund drive goal and is closing the campaign by the end of Friday.

United Way President Mark Stewart announced Tuesday that the current total stands at 4,114,852, keeping the local campaign at the top spot of per-capita giving among such Indiana campaigns at $52 per resident. Bartholomew County has led the state in that category for more than a decade, according to figures from local leaders and the Indianapolis-based Indiana United Ways.

“I always say that Columbus is a very generous community,” Stewart said. “The people living here are happy to call it home, and they understand the importance of everyone rolling up their sleeves and chipping in to help each other. So, yes, we are really, really fortunate.

“And I consider myself very fortunate in this position because I get to have a firsthand view of just how generous and amazing that this community is.”

Last year’s total was $4,088,480.

United Way operates 17 nonprofit agencies representing 32 programs that reach more than one-third of the county population. Because its overhead is covered separately by donors, all of the campaign contributions go directly to the cause.

Through the years, United Way also has earned the top ranking for integrity according to such ranking agencies as Charity Navigator.

Toyota Material Handling and Columbus Regional Health recently completed corporate campaigns that put the overall figure near the latest goal. Then a group of individual donors stepped up to donate in addition to what they already had given earlier, according to Stewart.

“We knew we were going to need a little extra (at the end),” Stewart said.

He has been more cautiously optimistic during the past two fund drives because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact regarding job loss and added medical expenses among some families. For that reason, United Way leaders have slightly lowered campaign goals compared to past years because they say they understand many cannot realistically give at previous rates.

Yet at the same time, Stewart and others such as campaign chair Kim Bennett have delicately emphasized that, with overall community needs surfacing greater than before for elements such as groceries and utility payments, United Way’s resources are needed more than ever.