The United Way of Liberty County just missed its $199,000 fundraising campaign goal for 2013. The organization raised $182,021, or 91 percent of its goal, according to Jennifer Darsey, director of the United Way of the Coastal Empire’s Liberty office. Last year’s goal was $195,000, she said. The campaign began Sept. 4 and ended Nov. 22.
Local United Way Board Chairman Anthony Burns was positive about the campaign results, even though the end amount fell short of the organization’s expectations.
“In years past, we’ve tried to involve as many folks in our community to participate in the campaign,” Burns said. “The United Way is there to raise funds for the agencies that serve our community. They themselves can’t do it all alone.”
The chairman said the United Way board carefully allocates funds to member agencies and holds groups under the United Way umbrella accountable for the funds they receive.
“We want to know those dollars are spent wisely,” he said.
During the allocation process, Burns said, the board determines a goal amount, so United Way agencies will receive the money necessary to serve those in need.
Darsey said money raised for the United Way in Liberty County stays in the county to help the community. She said the need for assistance has increased each year, but the ability of many to give has been impacted by a sluggish economy.
“When we set the goal, we knew it was a lofty goal,” Darsey said. She said individuals, organizations and businesses in Liberty and Long counties are generous, but the reality is some businesses have downsized.
The United Way director said despite missing the goal, she feels “accomplished” because this year’s goal was harder to reach than the goal set last year. Darsey added that any business or resident who wants to contribute to this year’s campaign still can. Their donations would be gratefully accepted, she said.
Some of the local organizations assisted by United Way include the Liberty County Senior Center, Adult Day Care, the Walthourville Seniors, YMCA Pryme Tyme, Manna House, the Kirk Healing Center, The Frasier Center, Gabriel’s House and the Backpack Buddies program.
In addition to community-based groups, the United Way assists the American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries, the MedBank Foundation and Toys for Tots, Darsey said.
The United Way also partners with America’s Second Harvest by offering several mobile food pantries each year. A food drive held Nov. 21 at the Walthourville Fire Station served about 2,700 food-insecure residents in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, Darsey said. The next mobile food pantry will be Dec. 18 in Midway to help those in need before Christmas.
The United Way director touted a new scholarship program, assisted by the United Way, to be rolled out in January. The $290,000 grant program, Accelerating Opportunity, will be offered through Savannah Technical College.
“There are 15 slots in the welding program,” Darsey said. The program is meant to help low-income individuals achieve economic independence by giving them a chance to become welders, she said.
Students in the program would graduate in 12 months with a dual certification in welding, get a GED and be COMPASS-ready. The COMPASS test measures reading, composition and math skills to determine a student’s readiness for college-level courses, Darsey explained.
She said the welding program typically takes two years to complete.
“Welding is only being offered here at the Liberty County campus,” she said.
The starting salary for welders is generally $18 an hour, and STC’s job-placement team has a 96 percent success rate, according to Darsey.
“There are very few programs like this in the entire United States,” she said.
For more information, call the United Way office at 368-4282.