Jackson County United Way meets to recap the year

Jackson County United Way recently recapped its 60th annual campaign with a celebration for those who gave back to the community.

“It is amazing to me that we gather here six decades, 60 years later, to celebrate all that has been done in our community,” the Rev. Jeremy Myers, 2023 board president, said during the annual meeting Thursday night at The Pines Evergreen Room in Seymour.

Jackson County United Way is a nonprofit organization that fights for health, education and financial stability for Jackson County residents and supports 25 impact programs from different organizations in the area.

The money raised from the annual campaign directly goes to funding different programs from these certified community partners, which include American Red Cross, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry, Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Boys & Girls Club of Seymour, Child Care Network and Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, just to name a few.

The night started off with Myers welcoming past and present board members and others who have served the community. He said he looks forward to the future and what United Way will be able to accomplish in the next 60 years.

Following a prayer, dinner was served by The Pines Restaurant, and there was a silent auction. All proceeds from the silent auction went toward the annual campaign to help fund the impact programs.

After dinner, Maci Baurle, executive director of Jackson County United Way, told the story of how the organization got its start with a dinner much like the one they celebrated Thursday evening.

In 1962, a group of concerned citizens wanted to find an easier and more efficient way to help the social agencies in the county, thus first began the Jackson County United Fund. They began to create a board of directors for the organization, for which Don Bollinger was elected as chairman and Joyce Marley as executive secretary.

The Seymour Rotary Club hosted the first kickoff dinner that was held at the Elks Club in Seymour with George Boas as the first drive chairman. At the time, there were 11 social agencies that were involved, and most are still community partners today, including American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Boys Club, Girls Club and Boy Scouts.

The first drive also introduced the beloved mascot JACSY, which stood for Jackson County Serving You and has become a familiar figure associated with the organization ever since.

It wasn’t until 2003 when Jackson County United Fund became Jackson County United Way. Since then, JCUW has been able to provide a substantial amount of funding and support for its impact partners’ programs.

In 2022, JCUW’s annual campaign goal was to raise $560,000. That’s currently at $490,000, which is 88% of reaching the goal.

“These funds allow us to continue to support our community partners’ program work in the areas of health, education and financial stability,” Baurle said.

Not only does United Way support its certified community partners, but over the years, it has developed programs of its own to aid in the cause of health, education and financial stability.

In July 2013, JCUW launched the first Rock‘n Ready school supplies distribution program with the support of Seymour Community School Corp., giving those in the community an opportunity to donate school supplies for children who are getting ready to go back to school.

In the first year of this program, they served more than 450 students with remaining supplies distributed to all county schools for other students in need. In 2022, the program grew to serve more than 1,300 K-12 students, distributing supplies in all areas of Jackson County.

United Way also runs the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax preparation for individuals and families who make less than $66,000 a year. In 2022, JCUW was able to serve 453 clients and help them keep more than $532,000 in federal refunds and $64,000 in state refunds.

Day of Caring, held on the second Tuesday in May, provides an opportunity for volunteers to help both residents and nonprofit organizations with tasks. In 2022, JCUW had 330-plus volunteers completing 63 projects all over the county and countless hours of community service.

Covering Kids and Families launched in 2018 focusing on the rate of uninsured residents of Jackson County. Baurle said this program has helped countless individuals and families find affordable health coverage they need. In 2022, they helped 875 residents and provided enrollment services for nearly 400 individuals.

In 2018, JCUW heard the issues and needs of those in the community, helping the agency create its bold goal to move 1,000 struggling working families into stability by 2023. This bold goal has inspired the expansion of many of the program JCUW offers and introduced new ones.

In the spring of 2021, Baurle was appointed to executive director, being the fourth woman to lead Jackson County United Way in all of its 60 years of serving the community.

“I am proud to join the ranks of women leading the community initiative in Jackson County,” Baurle said.

Baurle also recognized the past directors and past and present board members of Jackson County United Way with a standing ovation.

After Baurle’s closing remarks, Development Director Michelle Kleber and Engagement Director Emily Engelking began to present the awards for the evening.

The ceremony began with honoring the top 10 companies of the 2022 annual campaign.

Companies that received awards were Cummins Inc., Schneck Medical Center, Aisin USA Mfg. Inc., Blue & Co., Nippon Steel Pipe America Inc., JCBank, Beatty Insurance, Seymour Community School Corp., Lannett Co. Inc. and Jackson County.

With the celebration of 60 years, JCUW also honored businesses that have supported the organization throughout the many years and the beginning.

Those businesses were JCBank, Schneck Medical Center, Rose Acre Farms, The Tribune, Beatty Insurance and Blue & Co.

Looking through the history of JCUW, the organization found one name that was always part of its history. For the first time, JCUW offered a Heritage Award to the Bollinger family.

Todd Bollinger, grandson of the first chairman, Don Bollinger, accepted the award and shared some words of gratitude.

“Thank you to United Way for recognizing my family, and thank you to all the organizations, businesses and people that have worked together to make United Way the great organization it is today,” Bollinger said.

Toward the end of the evening, JCUW invited keynote speaker Michael Budd, chief executive officer of Indiana United Ways, to speak on the importance of giving back to the community.

In 2022, Budd began in the top role for Indiana United Ways, which supports 43 United Ways across Indiana and provides back-office services across the network.

Budd gave an inspirational speech about the importance of commitment to the community and the beauty of connection in a small town. He spoke about individuals and families in the community who are working yet struggling to afford basic needs, a term known as ALICE, Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

Budd’s message was about these families just doing the best they can, reciting a lyric from John Mellencamp’s song “Jack and Diane” but with the work of the community and serving these families can eventually lead them to a brighter future.

“As a community, we have the opportunity to do the best we can for these families so they can have a brighter tomorrow,” Budd said.