United Way aims to restore support to pre-Katrina levels

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 12, 2007

The United Way of Lincoln County chapter is beginning efforts torecruit volunteers and donors for the next year and hoping torestore local support to pre-Hurricane Katrina levels.

United Way chairman Bill Sones said the organization hopes todraw in local funds through what is referred to as the “fair share”plan, and that anyone can volunteer to help.

“We’re just now really putting the call out for volunteers;anyone can volunteer. We’re trying to get back to the basics ofUnited Way, mainly by stressing the fair share plan,” he said.”That involves individuals contributing one hour’s pay per month ona payroll deduction-type plan.”

Sones said United Way volunteers are starting recruitmentefforts at some of the larger employers in the area, such asDelphi, McClane Southern, and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, butthat they would like to reach as many employers in the county asthey possibly can.

Most importantly, Sones said, donors need to understand thattheir donation money stays local.

“We divide the money out between 22 charities locally,” he said.”We need people to understand they need to designate it, to telltheir employer that money needs to go to the Brookhaven and LincolnCounty United Way. We have people that are given options by theiremployers that don’t include the local United Way.”

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said the drive this year is not only tobring in the goal of $200,000, but also to try to bring new life toUnited Way in Lincoln County.

“Giving to United Way has really decreased nationwide,” he said.”As such we have greatly stepped up our efforts at home this year,and we have a number of United Way volunteers who are meeting withdifferent employers to let them know which charities we will besupporting this year.”

Sones, a 25-year United Way veteran, said some of the decreasein donations seemed to begin at the time of Hurricane Katrina.

“Actually since Katrina we haven’t made our projections, so thisyear we’re really trying to revitalize United Way,” he said. “I waschairman a little over 20 years ago. I had retired, but agreed tocome back and help this year to see if we couldn’t revitalize it.So we’re making a call for all employers in Lincoln County to helpus out.”

Sones said the effort is important not only to the localcharities it will benefit, but also to the community itself.

“Communities who slow down their giving, when you see the givingdeteriorate, the community begins to lose its vitality,” he said.”So I’d like to challenge each employer and employee to considerUnited Way this year and to make a contact with us if you’d like tohelp us out. We’re also looking for employees that will help uswithin businesses, and employers who will match their businesses’gifts.”

Bank of Brookhaven, of which Sones is the president, has had 100percent employee participation in the past and matches itsemployees’ gifts dollar for dollar, he said.

Keeping the donations in local charities benefits the communityin many ways, Sones said.

“Nearly everyone in the county is touched by one of thesecharities, either them or their family members,” he said. “Justabout everyone’s been touched by one of these agencies. You mayeven volunteer for one of these charities.”

He said United Way officials refuse to set the goal lowerbecause they know Brookhaven can handle the giving.

“There’s been pressure to move our goal down but Brookhaven, webelieve, is capable and willing to give to meet that goal,” hesaid. “Even if it’s only a dollar a month, everyone needs to give.We really need your help this year as we go forward.”

Sones said there are many ways to donate, and that United Waycan work out the details if a donor is simply willing to give.

“You can give lump sums, or we can work out auto transfers, andof course there are payroll deductions,” he said, adding thatdistance is not an issue either. “Every year we find someone thatdoesn’t even live here anymore and they’ll sign up for a payrolldeduction and send it back here. We can make it easy to find theway that fits you.”