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United Way campaign kicks off this week
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Rally extravaganza

• What: Free, catered rally to announce United Way campaign goals, seek volunteers and offer information about the organization.

• When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday

• Where: Liberty County Board of Education, 200 Bradwell St.

Cheerleaders for Liberty County’s high schools will toss their pom-poms and debut new routines Thursday night, and drum lines will provide steady percussion — but the festive atmosphere won’t be for football.

The flurry of excitement is for another fall tradition: the kickoff of the 2011-12 United Way campaign for Liberty County, presented in partnership with Liberty County Chamber of Commerce as a Business After Hours event.

And much of the group’s motivation to generate buzz comes from a nationwide poll, according to United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty Executive Director Jennifer Darsey.

“We were given staggering statistics from a nationwide poll, and it was simply this: ‘Seventy percent of people in a community do not give because they were never asked,’” she said. “We want everyone to become a part of the United Way — that is our biggest goal this year.”

This year’s goal for Liberty County will be formally revealed at the event Thursday, Darsey said. Last week, the UWCE announced its total goal of $8,255,555, “an ambitious target up $255,555” from last year, according to the organization’s website.

Last year, Liberty County raised $122,000 — short of its $180,000 goal, Darsey said. That’s part of the reason campaign leaders are stepping up their efforts to increase the visibility of the United Way.

The group is seeking volunteers and opportunities to share “how it works, why it works and how everyone can make a difference and be a part of such a valuable resource,” Darsey said.

“A lot of people have misconceptions what the United Way is and what we do,” United Way Liberty County advisory board member John Scherer said. “In giving them further education, we’d like to give people the chance to get out of their homes and get involved.”

The group supports community programs and services within four priority issues: education and youth development, health and wellness, economic independence and basic human needs. They provide grants for many nonprofit organizations in the community with funds from supporters, and administrative funds come from the Herschel V. Jenkins Trust Fund.

“The United Way reaches so many more people than a singular focus. There are so many charities, from Boy Scouts to helping the homeless, United Way reaches out to organizations from A to Z, right in your backyard,” Scherer said.

Seventeen groups, such as Helen’s Haven Children’s Advocacy Center, Team Hinesville and Manna House of Liberty County, will be on hand to offer information about how they give to the community and how the United Way gives to them.

And every dollar raised in the county stays in the county, Darsey added. “If we raise $200,000, then $200,000 goes back to agencies.”

And sharing information about how the organization benefits the community is one of the easiest ways to volunteer, Scherer said. 

“For instance, people who have people skills can go door-to-door and business-to-business and hand out packets and information about United Way,” he said.

Funds raised will be dispersed among area nonprofits that apply for grants of varying amounts, Darsey said.  Grants are awarded according to demonstrated need and are factored through an analytical process. 

“Essentially, anyone can become an ‘everyday hero’ just by making a contribution to the United Way — every dollar makes an impact,” she said.

The campaign runs through Nov. 19 and also will feature other events, such as the Georgia Theaters “Film and Food For a Cause” on Sunday, Sept. 18. For a $12 donation, donors receive admission to a film at Liberty Stadium Cinemas, a small concession combo and restaurant coupons.

To get involved or for more information, call the United Way at 368-4282.

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