Thoughts of the sluggish economy weigh on the minds of United Way coordinators as the group’s annual fund raising gears up to provide for community members in need.
“The need is greater than ever before, the way the economy has been so soft,” Dave Holtgraewe, United Way campaign manager, said at a kickoff meeting of city and county government employees Wednesday morning.
Last year, the organization raised $2.49 million — more than ever. This year’s goal is to bring in $2.57 million. The largest portion of these funds will be spent in Columbia, although the local United Way chapter funds 31 agencies across mid-Missouri. Last year, more than 113,000 people were assisted by programs supported by United Way funds.
“United Way literally kept the doors open,” said Peggy Kirkpatrick, director of the Central Missouri Food Bank and Pantry. The food bank is a distributor to 31 county sites, where more than 53,000 people can obtain food each month.
“The need is greater than ever, and I’ve been here for 10 years,” Kirkpatrick said. The food bank supplied 15.5 million pounds of food last year. This year, she said, the agency is already at 12 million pounds with the four biggest months to go.
Each year Boone County and Columbia city governments engage in campaigns to bring in donations from employees. Those who give, do so generously, said Betty Dickneite, chairwoman of the Boone County employees’ United Way campaign. Last year city employees did not receive merit increases and only got a 1 percent cost-of-living increase. This year there will be increases in both of those areas, City Manager Ray Beck said. Beck urged employees to share these increases with members of the community.
“I personally contribute to this program at a pretty substantial level, and I encourage all employees to contribute at some level,” Beck said.