United Way of Jasper County kicked off its annual fall fundraising campaign Friday with a luncheon for employee contribution coordinators, board members and partner nonprofit organizations at the DMACC Conference Center in Newton.
Board chairman Brad Magg first addressed those in attendance, thanking them for their involvement in United Way. He was followed by executive director Travis Padget, who expressed his excitement for the year ahead.
“Last year, when I stood here in front of you, I had only been with United Way for about two months, so I still had a learning curve ahead of me,” he said. “The past year was very rewarding. I’m confident for the year ahead.”
This year’s fundraising campaign has a goal of $363,000, which is a 10-percent increase over last year’s fundraising total. The $330,000 raised last year constituted a 10-percent increase over 2011 fundraising levels.
Padget said he’d love to reach $400,000, though.
“At that level, we would be close enough that we could fund all of our partner organizations’ requests,” he said. “Anyone who has sat in on those meetings knows, it’s really hard to say, ‘We’re going to give you 50 percent of what you need, but we really want you to continue that program.’”
Padget also outlined a number of cost-saving moves the organization has made over the past year to reduce its overhead and increase its ability to provide funding in the community. He said the biggest move was the purchase of a new, permanent home for the organization on West First Avenue earlier this year.
Toward the end of the event, Newton resident Cassie Mertz, a former addict, spoke about the impact United Way funding had on her life, as well as the lives of those around her. The emotional story brought tears to many eyes in the room.
“If it wasn’t for United Way sponsoring me, I’d be dead today. Now, I get to raise my daughter who was taken away from me,” she said. “There are so many more people out there like me, and without United Way’s help ... they become an even bigger problem for everyone else.”
Padget said he’s not seeking “Donald Trump money” from the community, urging as many people as possible to give just “four quarters a week.” A dollar a week can have a profound impact on the community, he said.
“People want to help,” he added. “We’re just giving them a chance to be connected into their community.”
Newton Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.