Jackson County United Way already is more than 12 percent to its goal of raising $810,000 for its 2016-17 campaign.

Pledges and donations so far total more than $97,200 and could actually exceed $100,000, campaign officials said.

During a kickoff event Wednesday, local supporters of the United Way gathered at the Knights of Columbus in downtown Seymour to learn more about the campaign and the work of the 20 agencies it helps fund.

A luau-themed lunch was provided by AVI Foodsystems and Aisin Group.

This year’s campaign theme is ” Growing Together: From Roots to Results.”

Mary Ellen Jaynes of JCB is serving as campaign chair, and Rick and Jennifer Meyer are vice-chairs.

The $810,000 is a 5 per-cent increase over the 2015-16 goal, Jaynes said.

“We can get there, but it will take each of us making a donation and being part of the campaign from roots to results,” she said.

Jaynes announced businesses and organizations that already have completed workplace campaigns, including Blue and Co., Brownstown Central Community School Corp., Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Jackson County United Way board and staff, JCB and Seymour Community School Corp.

“The campaign is off to a strong start this year due to these Pacesetter campaigns,” Jaynes said.

Jeff Nordman, executive vice president of operations at Aisin USA Mfg. Inc., said he is happy to donate to the campaign each year and is proud of the contributions made by hundreds of Aisin employees.

“Being a part of Jackson County is important to our company because we understand its countywide reach in addressing the health, education and financial stability for all residents in our community,” Nordman said.

Aisin plans to start its workplace campaign in September.

“United Way is making our community a better place to live,” Nordman said. “I give to United Way because it creates opportunities for our county to grow.”

The annual campaign raises operating funds for the American Red Cross, Anchor House Family Assistance Center, The Arc of Jackson County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana, Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, senior citizens centers in Brownstown, Crothersville, Freetown, Medora and Seymour, Child Care Network, Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Human Services Inc., Hoosier Trails Council Boy Scouts of America, Meals on Wheels, Mental Health America Jackson County, Read Jackson County, The Salvation Army and Turning Point.

Without financial support from the Jackson County United Way campaign, Matt Nicholson, executive director of Read Jackson County, said many programs and services the agency offers to promote and increase literacy in the county likely would not happen.

“Read provides free books through our office and the little free libraries around the community,” he said. “We offer English as a Second Language classes for learners three days a week. We offer adult tutoring and now are working with Big Brothers Big Sisters to match adult mentors with kids so they not only get a buddy, but they also get a trained reading tutor if needed.”

The agency also provides tutors to help children and adults who suffer from dyslexia and access to a Rosetta Stone language lab five days a week for those wanting to learn English or another language on their own.

Missy Woods, director of Human Services Inc. and the local chapter of The Salvation Army, said both agencies are doing work that has an impact in Jackson County.

Human Services and The Salvation Army work together to help low-income and other at-risk residents and families reach stability and independence to thrive in the community.

Funding from United Way helps those agencies provide rent or energy assistance to residents who are behind on their bills or have had their utilities shut off; a home weatherization program to help residents reduce their energy costs; Head Start preschool; and a community food pantry.

The organizations also have helped families pay for medications and have provided families with winter clothing, work boots, holiday meals and Christmas gifts for children.

“Human Services Inc. and The Salvation Army are both making great efforts to not only genuinely connect, but lead, educate and move people forward,” Woods said.

Warren Forgey, president and CEO of Schneck Medical Center, said contributing to United Way is a convenient way to give to one organization that supports many other community organizations.

“Many of those organizations have a direct impact on the health of our community, so that’s a direct connection to our mission at Schneck Medical Center,” Forgey said.

Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange served as campaign drive chairman last year and continues to support United Way’s cause.

“I feel like I’m speaking to the choir when I talk about how important United Way is to our community,” Prange said. “And most important to me are the children.”

Having been an educator in Seymour for 33 years, Prange said the number of students in the school corporation and at Seymour High School this year is at an all-time high.

And that means an all-time high for needs, he added.

“For many of our students, we are the most stable force in their lives,” he said. “They depend on us, but it goes beyond school. We are this community. We are a better community because of the organizations such as the United Way and the partners that make it happen.”

Prange said it’s up to the community to help support those students.

“They deserve the best that we can give them,” he said.

At a glance

How to donate to Jackson County United Way’s 2016-17 campaign

Mail donations to P.O. Box 94, Seymour, IN 47274

Drop off donations at 113 N. Chestnut St., Suite 301, Seymour

Giving options include automatic payment (deducted monthly out of checking account); cash, check or credit card; click and give electronically; payroll deduction; donation of stocks or mutual funds; scheduled billing; gifts of grain; or planned estate gifts.

Call 812-522-5450

Visit the website jacsy.org

United Way programs include Day of Caring, Rock’n Ready, FamilyWize prescription drug discount cards, 2-1-1 community resource hotline, Jackson County Volunteer Center and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Partnering agencies include American Red Cross, Anchor House Family Assistance Center, The Arc of Jackson County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana, Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, Brownstown Senior Citizens Center, Child Care Network, Crothersville Senior Citizens Center, Freetown Senior Citizens Center, Girls Scouts of Kentuckiana, Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Head Start, Hoosier Trails Council Boy Scouts of America, Meals on Wheels, Medora Senior Citizens Center, Mental Health America Jackson County, Read Jackson County, The Salvation Army, Seymour Senior Citizens Center 107 and Turning Point

January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.