United Way begins early fund-raising efforts
By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Aug. 5, 2002
The United Way of East Mississippi's annual Pace-Setter campaign, in which some companies get an early start on their United Way fund-raising, officially began last week.
The campaign will run through Sept. 17 and set the pace for the United Way's formal fund-raising campaign.
Louis Sutton, president and chief professional officer of United Way of East Mississippi, and Betty Lou Jones, fund-raising campaign chairman and chairman-elect of United Way, discussed the fund-raising efforts last week with The Meridian Star editorial board
The Meridian Star: How does the Pace-Setter program benefit United Way?
Louis Sutton: This is our third year for our Pace-Setter program and Day of Caring. It is designed to give our campaign a good jump-start, beginning about six weeks before our official kick-off that will begin September 17.
We like to give everyone an opportunity to see the agencies firsthand and get involved with them. I see our challenge as being to educate the public as to what the needs are in our community. Once they are educated the logical response will be to give of their time, their treasures or their talent and we need all three.
Betty Lou Jones: We will probably expand next year with a few more companies. Pace-Setter companies are extremely valuable because they get out there and get that money coming in and they set an example. They really challenge the rest of the community.
The Meridian Star: What percentage of your fund-raising comes from the Pace-Setter companies?
Jones: Our goal is for 25 percent of the total goal to come from Pace-Setter companies.
The Meridian Star: What is the total fund-raising goal for United Way this year?
Jones: $800,000. We feel like it is a very achievable goal and we do know that we need that amount of money to meet the needs of the community. 9-11 is behind us. We had that to deal with last year, and, personally, I think the economy can only go up.
We're not talking about fluff here. We're talking about the nitty-gritty needs of our community and a whole cross-section of our community. We're talking about infants, children, school children, elderly, the people in our community who need food through the Meals on Wheels program.
Sutton: We support education through tutoring programs and after school programs. And we support health care through the Wesley House clinic and Meridian Speech and Hearing, making sure that someone who has a hearing problem in our community can get a hearing aid, or tested, or speech therapy.
The Meridian Star: What other ways do you plan to educate the public about United Way and how it helps the community?
Jones: We're going to bring agency-and-board and agency-and-community together. We're going to have our campaign committee meetings in the agencies so that those people who are going out and helping to organize this campaign won't be talking about an agency from afar.
They're going to be talking about the place where they had lunch that day. They are going to be talking about going to Wesley House and seeing children playing outside in the kindergarten play yard. And they are going to talk about having been by Community of Hope after school and seeing the pictures on the wall that the children drew in their tutoring sessions. It's going to become very much a part of their life.
The needs of this community should be very much a part of all of our lives. And that's what we're going to try to accomplish with our campaign this year a new kind of awareness of what the United Way does for this community that a lot of people don't recognize.
Another thing is the awareness of the needs so that if there are unmet needs it won't be because we don't know about them.
The Meridian Star: Was Sept. 11 the main obstacle in not reaching the original fund-raising goal of $800,000 last year?
Sutton: We actually increased our giving by $20,000 last year. We had an aggressive goal last year. I wouldn't say it prevented us from reaching the goal, but it certainly slowed us down. And some of the resources that could have been directed toward our local effort was directed to the victims of New York and that's as it should have been. There was another need in our community and some support needed to go there. We had to tighten our belts a little bit here locally, but we had to help our brothers and sisters in New York also
The Meridian Star: What's the next step?
Jones: The Pace-Setter companies will have their campaigns during the next six weeks. Each company will run their own campaign. Some of us will be going into these companies, telling people about United Way and answering questions that the employees might have, making sure that if there are any obstacles to them giving, that we answer the questions and have them be informed givers. We want them giving to a concept they are happy about.
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, we will officially kick off the fund-raising campaign with a breakfast at Mississippi State University-Meridian and we will announce the results of the Pace-Setter campaign.