A call to action

Daily Citizen
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

United Way starts another fundraising campaign

During the last five years, the needs of the charities supported by the United Way of Northwest Georgia have become greater as the area’s citizens were impacted by the economic downturn. But while those needs grew, the ability of the people in the community to contribute to the United Way was also affected.
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But after going through that time of stretching the available resources, the United Way on Tuesday kicked off its new fundraising campaign hoping recent signs of economic recovery mean more donations and thus more help for the area’s organizations and for individuals like Jose Cortez.

Cortez, who is counted as one of the more than 67,000 individuals assisted by the United Way’s efforts last year, said he was a troubled youth with no male role models, no real focus in school and no plans for his future when he became involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Georgia Mountains. His “big brother” is Joey Stuart, and Cortez said he wouldn’t be about to graduate from Morris Innovative High School without his participation in the program.

“You connect with each other through the activities of the Big Brothers Big Sisters and a real bond develops,” Cortez said.

“Without the program, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Stuart said the partnership between the two benefits him just as much as it does Cortez. “There has to be someone out there for each of us to help in some way,” Stuart told the crowd at the fundraising campaign kickoff lunch at the trade center. “This is your call to action.”

Cortez and Stuart told their story as the United Way announced a goal of $3.55 million. Brian Anderson, president and CEO of the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce and the 2014 United Way Campaign chairman, said this year’s goal matches the total raised during the 2008 campaign which marked the year the downturn took effect. Since then, Anderson said contributions to the campaign have remained relatively stagnant, fluctuating from $3.2 to 3.5 million. This year, with the overriding theme of “Be a Game Changer,” the added kick of the $500,000 shows the optimism of the economic fortunes of the community
and its businesses.

“We are asking people who would normally give to do as little as 10 percent more,” said Dalton Utilities’ Lori McDaniel, who is on the United Way Board of Directors. “That small investment can have a major impact on our community.”

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Anderson said now is the time for the community — which has always responded to the needs of those less fortunate — to find a way to reach a little further.

“After five years of difficult times, we are finally seeing some signs that it is turning around with our unemployment going down,” Anderson said. “Now, we need to see if we can do a little more than we have been able to do in the last few years. After five years of a relatively flat campaign, we want to do more.” “Our agencies have had to be very frugal during that time,” Anderson said. “The needs went up, and the monies went down. We can do more.”

According to numbers provided by the United Way, 47 percent of all of the dollars distributed last year were designated for education, 35 percent for basic needs and 18 percent to health care with 67,282 people impacted by United Way dollars across Whitfield and Murray counties.

Another point of emphasis in this year’s campaign is the expansion of two programs already sponsored by the organization. Both the Young Leaders Society and the Women’s Leadership Council are seeking more participants. Built for leaders 45 and younger, the Young Leaders Society has a $365 base membership gift, while the Women’s Leadership Council membership is $1,000.

The next United Way event will be the Super Hero Sprint and CEO Trike Race on Monday at 6 p.m. in downtown Dalton. For more information, visit www.ourunitedway.org

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