The United Way of Jasper County has some exciting ideas for 2013, according to executive director Travis Padget. He is building relationships with numerous other charitable organizations in the area, wants to create a universal volunteer list and is looking forward to the United Way’s signature event, “Oktoberfest.”
“We always have Oktoberfest,” Padget said. “It’s our one major event and collaborative event with a large number of Jasper County non-profits.”
A large number indeed. The Newton YMCA, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Clearview Recovery, RSVP, the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, JCCPCA are among some of the groups involved in participating in the Oktoberfest. Padget also mentioned that Skiff Medical Center usually participates as well.
“It’s a free family fun event,” he said. “We have activities, games, and crafts. It’s free to everyone. Obviously we want Jasper County residents, we advertise Jasper County wide. It’s usually three or four hours on a Saturday afternoon.”
In the past they held more events but they really wanted to narrow their focus.
“Oktoberfest is our really big event,” he said. “We used to have more events but we really wanted to focus on family activities, fundraising and allocating.”
Funding is indeed a big issue for any non-profit, but especially for the United Way as they help out other charities with their funding. According to its website, the United Way funds three categories: Education, Health and Income. Education has a projected budget of $89,060, the Health budget is $71,900 and, the Income the budget is $66,500. More than 19 local organizations will receive assistance from the United Way as a part of these funds.
“I really wanted to focus on our fundraising this year,” he said. “One of the things that happened with a major industry leaving and the economic downturn was our pledges decreased dramatically. It’s unfortunate that the last few years we haven’t been able to fully fund the needs of our Jasper County agencies. It’s unfortunate when you don’t have enough money.”
In order to offset costs Padget has a few ideas.
“I really focused over the fall on increasing our donations,” he said. “It looks like we might have been successful on a small scale, but as a new director, I am looking at cutting costs and expenses as well. One of the new things that I am excited about is we are now offering an automatic withdrawal. When they sign the agreement we can take it from their bank account every month or every quarter for whatever amount they want to pledge. This would prevent donors from getting the calls, the printing, the mail and cut down on staff time. It’s just automatically set up, then individuals don’t have to write a check and we don’t have the expense of sending a letter reminder every month or every quarter. So I think its a win-win in both directions.”
Another thing that Padget wants to get the ball rolling on again is the United Way Impact Teams.
“In the last couple of years we have had three impact teams, the Education Impact Team, the Health Impact Team, and the Income Impact Team,” he said. “Those three are groups of community member volunteers who come together to discuss education, health and income in the county. They come together to find solutions and opportunities for improvement in those areas for the county.”
Perhaps the highlight of Padget’s goals for the year will be the implementation of a Jasper County wide collective volunteer base.
“I do hope to create in the next year a volunteer coordination center,” he said. “Kind of like how we bring in money and we share with other agencies in Jasper County. I would like to do the same with volunteers, so I’ll have a list of volunteers that would like to know what is available and then blast it out when the other agencies have an activity they need help with. With the smaller agencies its harder to maintain a volunteer base if they don’t use them frequently enough. The United Way can be that central contact for volunteers and for agencies in need.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.