United Way eyes funding rebound

Published 6:03 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

Bill Sones remembers when the United Way inLincoln County consistently met its fundraising goals of $200,000or more.

    Then, giving went down. Year-end totals of $100,000 became thenorm.

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    But Sones, Bank of Brookhaven president, is determined to see thelocal United Way putting up big numbers again.

    “I will be relentless,” he said.

    Sones will serve as the fundraising chairman this year, a positionhe has held several times before.

    He and other local United Way leaders held a luncheon Thursday tobegin the donation campaign for the year, which will last untilearly November. Local school and business leaders were presentwhile Sones pitched the virtues of the United Way.

    “When people give they are giving directly to these agencies, 28agencies that touch almost every family in the county,” Sonessaid.

    The United Way has 28 partner agencies in Lincoln County, includingthe Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Boysand Girls Club and the Brookhaven Recreation Department.

    Sones emphasized that only 1 percent of local donations is sent tothe national United Way. All other funds go directly to localpartner agencies.

    At the Brookhaven Recreation Department, United Way funds enableprogram scholarships for students that might not otherwise be ableto participate in programs such as art or baseball.

    Terry Reid, director of the Brookhaven Recreation Department,explained that though his department is fully funded by the city,he cannot use public money to buy uniforms or other supplies forchildren if they will keep those items.

    He, therefore, uses United Way funds to purchases supplies forchildren that cannot afford them,

    “That money has let a lot of kids do things they couldn’t havedone,” he said.

    Reid has already run out of United Way funds for the year due tothe recent decrease in fundraising.

    Sones explained that United Way fundraising consists in seeking thecooperation of local employers who allow their employees toallocate a particular amount to be deducted from their paychecksand given directly to the United Way. The United Way traditionallyrequests participating employees to donate one hour’s worth of paya month.

    At the Bank of Brookhaven, Sones pushes for 100 percent employeeparticipation.

    “The way United Way works, a lot of people give a little,” Sonessaid.

    Dr. Lisa Karmacharya, Brookhaven School District superintendent,wants to get the district behind the United Way.

    “My experience with the United Way in Hattiesburg was incredible,”Karmacharya said speaking of where she previously worked.

    School officials hope the program will gain traction in thedistrict.

    “The school employees can get behind it because a lot of theseagencies are aimed at school-age children,” said JoAnna Sproles,public relations coordinator for the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict.

    Sones wants to target the 10-12 largest employers in Lincoln Countyas part of his effort to rebuild fundraising coffers.

    He explained he does not want to have a year-end conversation hehas had too many times already.

    “The last few years I’ve had to call agencies and tell them, Ipromised you $5,000 but I can only give you $2,000. That’s not funand you know they need more than the $5,000 they asked for,” Sonessaid.