(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Members of the Sikeston/Bootheel Area United Way are gearing up for the 2008 campaign.
"We look forward to having a successful year and getting lots of contributions," said Laura Landers, chairperson for this year's effort.
This year's campaign kicks off today with a Thursday luncheon and the goal is $80,000 -- the same as the 2007 local campaign. Organizers plan to wrap up the campaign in November.
"It's our busy, busy time," said Glenna Shy, executive director of the local organization. "We get all fired up when we have our kickoff luncheon."
Organizers hope that, despite the bleak economy, people will open their pocketbooks to support the cause, as they have for so many years. "We all belong to a very generous community, and people have always come through for us," Shy said.
Last year's campaign exceed the goal by 114 percent -- meaning $91,400 was pledged or donated.
"We need to always exceed our goal," said Shy. She pointed out that pledges may not always come through -- for instance, a payroll pledge may cease if someone moves jobs.
Landers said the goal is determined by applications of funding requests from the 14 area agencies it serves, in addition to administrative costs.
The two emphasized the importance of the donations to the local community. The Sikeston/Bootheel Area United Way supports agencies in Scott, Stoddard, New Madrid, Mississippi, Pemiscot and Butler counties.
"We have several agencies that we are the sole supporter of -- they get no government funding," said Shy.
"And the majority of the agencies are smaller agencies that are specific to our area," added Landers, noting that in instanced such as the YMCA or Boy and Girl Scouts, all the money stays local. "We've even got some small ones, such as the Delta Area Blind, that our organization makes up a huge chunk of their budget. Without the United Way, they wouldn't be able to do what they do."
Shy added: "You just never know whether you or your neighbor will need one of the agencies."
Something the United Way is focusing on this year is the payroll deduction program, to make it easier for people to donate.
"The company will deduct whatever amount out of the paycheck and send it to the United Way," said Landers. "It's an easy way for a person to donate without having to write a check each month or a huge lump sum check."
Landers said the deductions have been done in the past, the United Way is just reaching out to even more companies this year.
"We do get the majority of our contributions through payroll deductions," noted Shy. "We've really grown the last two to three years by doing it."
Another effective tool is sending out letters to past donors, asking them to again contribute, she said. All donations are tax deductible.
And it's not just money the organization asks for -- time is also appreciated.
Shy commended the board and other volunteers who give their time, calling the area United Way "fortunate" to have the dedicated volunteers. On an average, the chairperson spends three to five hours per week on the campaign, in addition to hundreds of hours logged by other volunteers.
Landers said more volunteers are always welcome. "Anybody that's interested can call the Sikeston office, and Glenna can definitely put you to work," she said.
Landers, who lives in Sikeston, has been involved in the United Way for two years. She is the accounting manager at Cargill.
Other officers who serve on the board with Landers include: vice-chairs Greg Comer and Donna Tippy; Sarah Buchanan, secretary; and Suzanne Burch, treasurer.
For more information or to volunteer, contact the local United Way office at 471-0310.