HANCOCK COUNTY — The red thermometer, marking the progress of the annual campaign. Fundraising dinners, complete with thunderous applause for the annual donors.
Paula Jarrett knows those are the images that come to mind for many people when they think of United Way. They see the nonprofit as a fundraising giant with a once-a-year mission, but Jarrett, United Way of Central Indiana Hancock County area leader, said the organization she leads is much bigger.
As the local 2016 United Way campaign ramps up, Jarrett hopes to shift residents’ focus to the organization’s impact in the community. She cites the ReadUP program for struggling young readers, or the hundreds of students who receive school supplies free of charge through the Backpack Attack program every year.
The organization began its $800,000 campaign in July and will continue to reach out to its corporate partners and individuals in order to provide funding to its 90 certified partners, four of which boast headquarters in Hancock County: The Hancock County Hope House, Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County, Hancock County Senior Services and Meals on Wheels of Hancock County.
“I meet individually with donors a lot more than I used to,” Jarrett said.
Some corporations establish a “United Way ambassador,” an employee designated to encourage donations by distributing paper pledge cards and directing their coworkers to the United Way website, Jarrett said.
At a recent day of service at Hancock Regional Hospital, volunteers packed 600 snack pack bags for the students who spend time at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County, Jarrett said. United Way funds about 30 percent of the organization’s operating budget, which provides after-school entertainment, education and character-building programs, executive director Chad Hudson said.
The United Way continues to expand its efforts in the county, Jarrett said. One of its newest endeavors provides volunteer opportunities to high school students attending the Academy at Greenfield-Central, an alternative school for students struggling to graduate. Part of their graduation requirements include completing community service projects, and United Way is coordinating those efforts, Jarrett said.
In many ways, United Way serves as a promoter of smaller organizations like Senior Services, said Kit Paternoster, Senior Services outreach coordinator. She called the organization “a major cheerleader” for Senior Services, which provides free legal help and low-cost transportation, as well as handyman services, to seniors through the county.
“It lets people know we’re out there,” Paternoster said. “Just this past week, they let us know there’s a company wanting to do a volunteer project for us. United Way is a really important piece to who we are and what we do.”
Anyone can volunteer for the United Way of Central Indiana. To find out more about volunteer opportunities, contact Jeannie Roberts, volunteer coordinator, at 317-467-2346, or visit uwci.org.