One day while stacking cereal boxes at a Kellogg’s plant in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, Jim Potts was asked about contributing to United Way.

Making $1.25 an hour, trying to save money to go back to college in the fall and knowing he was only going to be there for about 10 weeks, Potts wasn’t sure if he could get involved.

The man told Potts, “If you do, you’ll probably be glad that you did later on, to be a part of something that’s going on here in Memphis and taking care of these organizations that need everyone’s help.” Potts was encouraged to “be a player in the game.”

Potts realized his contribution could make a difference and had a portion of his check go to United Way.

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“That got me started. That got me interested. That got me to understand a little bit more about what United Way is about,” Potts said.

Fifty-two years later, Potts finds himself still involved, most recently serving as the Hope for Our County Campaign chairman for Jackson County United Way in 2014.

During Monday night’s annual meeting and awards program at Cupid’s Arrow Restaurant and Bar in Seymour, he proudly announced the campaign raised $756,694, which exceeded the goal of $745,000.

Potts applauded the work of the Jackson County United Way staff, volunteers, board members and 20 partner agencies for sharing information with local industries, businesses and schools.

“What you have done is the start of some bigger and better things that can happen through United Way in this community in the years to come,” Potts said. “I learned more about all of the partners this year rather than just some of the partners. If our people within this community realized what they have a chance to be a small part of by contributing, they’ll feel good about being a part of the game.”

Tonja Couch, executive director, and Sean Hildreth, resource development director, handed out awards Monday night.

The Community Spirit Award was presented to Radio 96.3 FM WJAA for sharing information about United Way and other local nonprofit organizations, community events, schools and sports on the air.

“To be a part of a community is easy. To embrace community spirit is remarkable,” Hildreth said. “Our award winner this year embraces community spirit.”

The Cummins Hedgehog Team received the Community Service Award for helping Seymour city employees with a Green Up project and providing clothing, books, toys and food for Head Start students and their siblings.

“These efforts combined shine a light on how this company embodies community service,” Hildreth said. “Engagement is the underpinning of their responsibility to our community. They aim to use the strength of their employees’ skills to achieve impact and results.”

Volunteers of the Year were Greg Prange and Cheryl Fenton of Seymour Community Schools for education; Adela Foist for health; and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance volunteer Barbara Fleenor for financial stability.

For the third year, Karen Brooks and Justin Amos led the United Way’s annual Day of Caring event. For increasing the number of volunteers from 71 in 2012 to 450 in 2014 and going from 32 community improvement projects to 74, they received the JACSY (Jackson County Serving You) Award.

“For some people, volunteering is about giving. But for our winners, it is a way of living,” Hildreth said. “If the world becomes a better place tomorrow, it will happen because of volunteers like them.”

The Rising Star Award, which goes to a first-year campaign volunteer, was given to local Realtor Amy Sutherland, who as co-chairwoman for the campaign’s business division helped gather volunteers and donations.

“She was excited and engaged in year one,” Hildreth said. “She helped gather a team of engaged volunteers that through a focused effort with small- to medium-sized businesses raised almost 13 percent of our goal.”

The Power of We Award was presented to Seymour-Redding Elementary School. Kathy Moffett’s second-grade class led a United Way fundraiser, resulting in the school collecting $601.68. The parent-teacher organization added $200, and an Indiana Association of United Way Work2Gether grant doubled the impact, bringing the total to $1,603.36.

“When we realized that together we can change the world, the world will change,” Hildreth said. “Our Power of We Award winners humbled us with their generous spirit and dedication to a goal.”

PD Pharmatech was the Most Improved Campaign winner. By having United Way staff and partners share stories and offering a day off from work for employees giving at the fair share level, the company boosted its totals 220 percent over the previous year’s campaign.

Dicksons Inc., Home Products International, Valeo Lighting Systems LLC, County of Jackson and Brownstown Central Community Schools all were recognized for having their total campaign contribution exceed 1 percent of the United Way’s campaign goal.

Finally, Hildreth announced the top 10 campaigns, with Kremers Urban Pharmaceuticals Inc. leading the pack. Between employee contributions and a company donation, Kremers’ campaign total exceeded $135,000, or 18 percent of the goal.

Amber Hatfield-Owens, 2014 board president, reflected on the successful United Way programs throughout the past year, while 2015 board president elect Nate Otte announced this year’s focus will be on building stronger partnerships with the theme of “Collaborative Spirit.”

Otte said work will center around important community conditions, including ensuring students around the county are ready to learn when starting kindergarten and tackling the drug issue.

“In 2015, we look forward to embracing new ideas and initiatives, which will bring people, organizations and communities together with a common purpose — to improve the quality of life in Jackson County,” he said.

At a glance

Jackson County United Way presented awards during its annual meeting Monday at Cupid’s Arrow Restaurant and Bar in Seymour.

Community Spirit Award: Radio 96.3 FM WJAA

Community Service Award: Cummins Hedgehog Team

Education Volunteers of the Year: Greg Prange and Cheryl Fenton

Health Volunteer of the Year: Adela Foist

Financial Stability Volunteer of the Year: Barbara Fleenor

JACSY Award: Karen Brooks and Justin Amos

Rising Star Award: Amy Sutherland

Power of We Award: Seymour-Redding Elementary School

Most Improved Campaign: PD Pharmatech

1 percent of campaign: Dicksons Inc., Home Products International, Valeo Lighting Systems LLC, County of Jackson and Brownstown Central Community Schools

Top 10 company campaigns: 1. Kremers Urban Pharmaceuticals Inc.; 2. Cummins Inc.; 3. Aisin Group; 4. Schneck Medical Center; 5. Seymour Community Schools; 6. Seymour Tubing; 7. JCB; 8. Walmart; 9. Blue & Co. LLC; 10. Excel Manufacturing

Outgoing board members: Chris Lambring and Tony Stuckwisch, three years of service; Dan Banks, Amber Hatfield-Owens and Kersten Fye, six years of service

At a glance

Jackson County United Way partner agencies

American Red Cross

Anchor House

The Arc of Jackson County

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana

Boys Scouts of America Hoosier Trails Council

Boys & Girls Club

Child Care Network

Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana

Girls Inc. of Jackson County

Human Services Inc.: Head Start

Meals on Wheels

Mental Health America of Jackson County

Read Jackson County and Plaza Latina

The Salvation Army

Senior citizens centers in Brownstown, Crothersville, Freetown, Medora and Seymour

Turning Point

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.