A day after sharing the good news that Jackson County United Way had exceeded its 2014 campaign goal, the staff began working toward the next campaign.

That process never ends, said Tonja Couch, the organization’s executive director.

In the spring, the agency conducted CEO visits, which involved talking to industry and small-business leaders, explaining the campaign goal and letting them know how they could help them achieve it.

The campaign team and United Way board and staff also talked about ways to raise funds for the new campaign, which started Tuesday and runs through Nov. 20.

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This year’s theme is Team Up for Jacsy, and the goal has been set at $765,000, which exceeds the $756,694 raised in 2014.

“We’re refining our skills and knowledge and getting better. We’re really looking at that goal of $765,000 and knowing that it’s well within reach this year,” Couch said.

“We know that there are great opportunities for growth and are eyeing those very carefully,” she said. “We’re seeing not only campaign involvement but volunteer engagement, and those two things go hand in hand to expand programming and really make the reach of United Way and the work that we’re trying to do in the community grow so we can affect more lives and create more lasting change.”

To kick off the campaign, Jackson County United Way conducted events for four straight days this past week in Crothersville, Seymour, Medora and Brownstown. Couch said that was done for the third year in a row as a way to reach out to the communities the agency serves.

Jackson County United Way works with 20 partner agencies, which serve people of all ages throughout the county.

“It is really important to us to make sure we’re present countywide. This has been the best way that we know to do that, is to get out in the community and really be able to build some relationships with residents where they live,” Couch said.

“It’s a great way for us to just be in the neighborhood,” she said. “We are in the neighborhood all year long, but we’re not necessarily 100 percent visible. Our programs hide within the school walls and hide within the senior citizen centers. Our presence is hidden, and we’re trying to get away from that.”

This year’s campaign already has gotten off to a good start.

Board President Nate Otte made a strong push to have 100 percent participation from United Way board and staff in contributing to the campaign. The result was $21,849 raised with 21 leadership gifts, which are each more than $1,000.

That was a 24 percent increase from 2014, which netted $17,552 with 15 leadership gifts.

“We’re very excited about that,” Couch said. “That’s great growth and a great way to show our community it’s a high-percentage increase.”

There also were pacesetter campaigns, which help jump-start the annual campaign, conducted by Jackson County Public Library, Brownstown Central Community School Corp. and Seymour Community School Corp. Funds from those drives have been collected and are being processed.

“We really thank those three organizations getting the campaign started for us and letting us kind of be present to that already. We’ve seen growth there,” Couch said. “Those initial campaigns really set the tone for the campaign.”

The kickoff events also gave local industries, businesses and individuals a chance to learn about United Way and participate in this year’s campaign.

Aisin USA Mfg. Inc. has formed a campaign team for the first time. Dennis Putman, the company’s executive vice president of operations, said Aisin has had employees contribute to campaigns in the past, but they decided to do something to drum up more team member involvement.

“The thing that kept coming back was we have the United Way campaign, we do it one time a year, and then we don’t hear about it,” Putman said. “So what we’re going to try to do is have monthly events so we keep that United Way message out there in front of them and talk about what are some of the creative things we can do to have a little fun with it but still talk about the need and importance of it.”

Putman said Jackson County United Way is a good organization to help because it serves people of all ages in the county.

“There’s really a huge need, and it takes a collaborative effort of everyone in the county basically to support that and help improve the health, education and income of people,” he said. “There is a huge need out there that people don’t realize.”

The 20 agencies see that on a daily basis.

Among the agencies is Mental Health America of Jackson County, which provides education on mental health issues and conducts social events for clients. Executive director Bob Dembek said United Way provides about half his funding.

“I think without the funding for these agencies, a lot of things would go undone in Jackson County,” he said. “So it’s really important that people in the community support it because there’s a lot of good things being done by the agencies and the work of the United Way to try to bring groups together to try to serve and meet the needs of the community.”

Dembek said he receives a lot of support from United Way staff, and he also likes how the agencies’ leaders help each other.

“That’s the important thing, that we work together,” he said. “The staff is always very supportive, always willing to help out and make things easier. They are there for you to help and try to make things better for the community.”

Turning Point, which offers domestic violence prevention services, is another United Way agency. Latina case manager Araceli Gonzalez said she was glad to see United Way’s “Live United” tagline translated to “Vive Unido” on some campaign T-shirts this year in support of the Latina community.

“We really appreciate that,” Gonzalez said. “It’s an honor for me to wear this shirt today because it’s in Spanish.”

She also encouraged people to give to United Way.

“I think that it’s important for the community to get involved with United Way and volunteer and donate money,” she said. “I think it’s help for everybody, not just for United Way. It’s for all of the agencies, and United Way supports all of the agencies in the county.”

Payroll deduction is the easiest way to give because it comes out of your paycheck before you see it, Couch said. Employers of all sizes can set up payroll deduction gifts.

One-time, monthly or quarterly gifts can be done by direct withdrawal (taken out of your checking account with a voided check), credit card ($50 minimum) and billing ($50 minimum). Cash and checks also are accepted, and there is a stock option in which a broker notifies United Way of your gift.

From $1 to large gifts of $4,000 to corporate gifts of $35,000, Couch said it all makes an impact.

“Our board and the committee that reviews the agencies are very knowledgeable and take time to look at what partners we’re funding so we’re making strategic decisions when we invest those dollars and knowing that, where the dollars are going, we’re making an impact,” she said.

Success also requires a strong campaign team, which this year has Greg Prange as the chairman and Mary Ellen Jaynes as vice chairwoman.

“They have a great team helping them, and they have great ambassadors recruited, people that are going to go out and tell our story,” Couch said. “If we’re telling our story right, we’re hoping that people will just open their wallets and hand over those gifts. Whether it’s $1 or thousands of dollars, they all make a huge difference.”

Jackson County is growing and changing, and Couch said there is a sense that it is headed in the right direction.

“We really contribute that to a lot of residents stepping up and being supporters of the work that’s happening in the community,” she said. “We wanted people to kind of feel that energy and know that they can be a part of it, too. This is not exclusive. We want more people involved in this.”

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Jackson County United Way

Partner agencies: American Red Cross, Anchor House, The Arc of Jackson County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana, Boys Scouts of America Hoosier Trails Council, Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, Child Care Network, Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Human Services Inc./Head Start, Meals on Wheels, Mental Health America of Jackson County, Read Jackson County and Plaza Latina, The Salvation Army, Turning Point, and senior citizens centers in Brownstown, Crothersville, Freetown, Medora and Seymour

Programs and services: Day of Caring, Stuff the Bus and Rock’n Ready, FamilyWize Prescription Drug Discount Cards, 2-1-1 South Central Indiana, Jackson County Volunteer Center and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

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To participate in this year’s Jackson County United Way campaign, Team Up for Jacsy, contact the organization at 812-522-5450, stop by the office in the Community Agency Building in downtown Seymour at 113 N. Chestnut St., Suite 301, or visit jacsy.org.


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