While going through storage at the Community Agency Building in downtown Seymour last year, the building manager found an oil painting of JACSY.
The knight mascot was introduced during the first campaign drive for the Jackson County United Fund when the organization was established in 1962. JACSY stood for the slogan “Jackson County Serving You.”
The next year, an annual school contest for grades 1 to 6 produced a new slogan. That continued on an annual basis until 2000. Then in 2003, the organization became known as Jackson County United Way.
Looking at the bottom right of the oil painting, United Way staff members saw “L. Honn 1962.” After some research, they found out Lola Honn was the artist. They also learned her name now is Lola Erwin, and she’s 85 and lives in Monticello.
On Friday, the staff members FaceTimed with Erwin, asking her what inspired her to paint JACSY.
“Joyce Marley was in charge of United Fund at the time, and I was a friend of hers,” Erwin said. “That’s what resulted in the (painting). I do recognize it as my work. … When I’m drawing, usually, I do have something to work from, a picture or something, but I don’t specifically remember if I did, but I would bet I did.”
Stephanie Strothmann, community impact director for the local United Way, said when she first saw the painting, she could tell it was done by somebody who knew what they are doing.
“The little painting is beautiful the way that it was composed and all of that,” she told Erwin.
“I wish I remembered how I did it, but for some reason, when I looked at that, I could recognize the fact that it was my work,” Erwin said. “Something about the shading, how it was done, I never gave it any thought until I saw that, and then I thought, ‘Hmm.’”
Strothmann said she remembers coloring a picture of JACSY and participating in the campaign slogan contest when she was in school. A winner was chosen from each class, and the slogan was picked from those.
“Those got submitted to the organization to decide who rose to the top,” Strothmann said.
Emily Engelking, engagement director for JCUW, said Erwin’s work has inspired people throughout the county over the years.
“Everyone probably over the age of 35 has some kind of story about JACSY and the coloring contest. It’s really incredible,” she said before introducing the new JACSY mascot to Erwin. “You may not be in Jackson County anymore, but your legacy sure is.”
Erwin smiled when she saw the mascot.
“Aw, neat. That’s really neat. That’s great,” she said.
“We take him all over the place,” Engelking said. “It’s always a good time when JACSY comes. We’ve had him out at parades, festivals, school events. He’s a big hit.”
Erwin said she had no idea JACSY was still around.
Besides her friendship with Marley, who was the executive secretary, Erwin said her only other connection was donating to the United Fund. She was a physical education teacher at Shields Junior High School in Seymour at the time.
“They tried to get teachers involved in donating,” she said. “It was sort of like a contest, you might say, to get everybody to donate.”
United Fund was founded by a group of concerned citizens who wanted to find an easier and more efficient way to help 11 social agencies in the county. They drew in other people from throughout the county to form the first board of directors, and a campaign drive committee was established.
The drive goal was $69,700, and that was surpassed by raising $85,000. Since that time, United Fund and United Way have been successful in providing agencies their budget needs, and fundraisers have been added to contribute even more.
This year is the organization’s 60th anniversary in Jackson County, and a T-shirt fundraiser featuring the painting of JACSY will be included. That will kick off with local businesses and vendors, and the public sale will start in June.
Other events, including a fall celebration, are in the works. Engelking told Erwin she is cordially invited.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some fun stuff around JACSY since he’s so well-loved. We just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for everything that you’ve given us and let you know that JACSY is still around,” Engelking said.
“That little painting will carry on its legacy for years to come, I’m sure,” Strothmann added, noting the artwork hangs on the wall in the United Way office on the third floor of the Community Agency Building.
Erwin has lived in Monticello since 1979. She was a radio dispatcher for the county until 1983 and then was an Indiana State Police dispatcher until retiring in 2006. She said the only type of art she does these days is rock painting.
At a glance
Jackson County United Way assesses needs, secures resources and strategically invests those resources to create measurable, lasting change in the areas of education, health and financial stability.
For information, call 812-522-5450 or visit jacsy.org or facebook.com/myjacsy. The website includes ways to donate, get involved or get help and information about United Way’s history, programs, staff and more.
This is the 60th anniversary of the organization. Anyone who has stories or historical information to share about Jackson County United Fund or Jackson County United Way may email them to [email protected]