Annual fundraising campaign kicks off with celebration

Jackson County United Way is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year by working to raise $855,000 over the next several months.

Supporters gathered last week for the kickoff celebration at the American Legion Annex in Seymour to start the annual fundraising campaign.

Money raised goes to fund United Way programs and 20 partner agencies that work to improve the health, education and financial stability of every Jackson County resident.

The amount represents a 5.5 percent increase over last year’s goal of $810,000. Last year’s campaign ended up raising $825,724.

“The dollars raised in the annual campaign make Jackson County a better community,” said Tonja Couch, executive director of Jackson County United Way. “We would love for all people to get involved and engaged with this work.”

Bonita Dobbs, Jackson County United Way program manager, highlighted some of that work, including Day of Caring, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, FamilyWize Community Service Partnership to provide discounts on prescriptions and free flu shots, 2-1-1 hotline to connect people to health and human service information, Rock’n Ready school supply drive and the Jackson County Volunteer Center to match volunteers with opportunities to meet community needs.

Agencies that receive financial support from United Way are American Red Cross, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Food Pantry, The Arc Jackson County, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club of 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, Turning Point and senior citizen centers in Brownstown, Crothersville, Freetown, Medora and Seymour.

“Our program work has seen great growth since 1962, and we continue to listen to what our community hopes for and how we collectively can deliver on the needs of our community,” Couch said.

In the coming years, Jackson County United Way will be focusing its work on getting people out of poverty and drug and mental health issues, she said.

Rick and Jennifer Meyer are serving as this year’s co-chairs of the Reach 55 campaign. Vice chairs are Dr. David and Monica Hartung.

As a teacher for Seymour Community School Corp., Jennifer said she sees the impact United Way and its agencies make in the lives of students and families every day.

The school corporation conducted the sixth largest workplace campaign in the county last year.

“SCSC is close to the top in the rankings because of our belief that the United Way is investing and creating lasting, measurable change,” she said.

Rick Meyer, an officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, shared his story of how he got involved in United Way’s work and joined the Anchor House board.

In 2014, after being shot in the line of duty, Meyer met with Sean Hildreth, United Way resource development director, and started the Battle of the Badges basketball tournament between local police and firefighters to benefit two United Way agencies, including Anchor House.

Meyer then did a ridearound with an Anchor House employee one night to help document the number of homeless people in the county.

“I was skeptical,” he said.

But before they really even got started, they responded to a call of a person walking along the roadway. When they caught up with him, the person told them he was homeless.

“That really opened my eyes. I didn’t expect to see that,” Rick Meyer said. “Now, I see it all the time.”

The Meyers now are encouraging people to make a donation for the first time or to increase their giving in order for the campaign to make its goal.

“We ask that you dig deep and help us as we work toward our goal,” Rick Meyer said. “We will fight to get there. Join us and make a pledge to live united.”

New this year is the Tocqueville Society, a national association created to celebrate individuals who demonstrate exceptional generosity and leadership through philanthropy.

Couch announced that the first $10,000 donation by an anonymous donor recently had been made to Jackson County United Way’s Tocqueville Giving Society.

“The donors shared with us that the gift was made because of the outstanding work of the JCUW board and the drive for impact and accountability,” Couch said. “We can’t do this alone. This work is challenging, all encompassing and weaved together. We need collective impact where all organizations are working to create a stronger community.”

At a glance

50-year donors to Jackson County United Way

American Legion Post 89, Beatty Insurance, Dr. Kenneth Bobb, Duke Energy, ESA Beta Kappa, Greemann’s Furniture, Indiana American Water Co., Jackson County Bank, Kocolene Marketing Corp., Lannett (formerly Kremers Urban, Schwarz Pharma and Central Pharmaceuticals), PNC (formerly National City Bank, Seymour National Bank and Merchants Bank), Seymour Kiwanis, Seymour Manufacturing, Seymour Evening Lions Club, Seymour Psi Iota Xi, Seymour Rotary Club, Union Hardware and Vectren (formerly Indiana Gas).

At a glance

How to give to the Jackson County United Way Reach 55 campaign

Donate online at jacsy.org/options.php.

Talk to your employer about payroll deduction or have an automatic monthly deduction from your checking account

Send a check to Jackson County United Way, P.O. Box 94, Seymour, IN 47274.

Drop off a cash donation or make a credit card payment at the United Way office at 113 N. Chestnut St., Suite 301, Seymour.

Call the United Way office at 812-522-5450 to ask about donations of stocks or mutual funds, scheduled billing, gifts of grain or planned gifts.

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