With boxing gloves pounding the air, The United Way of Southeast Missouri punched its way into a new fundraising campaign that sports the slogan, “United We Fight. United We Win.”
The campaign kickoff was Aug. 23 at Ray’s Banquet Center in Cape Girardeau.
Darren Burgfeld began the program with a wonderful impersonation of a fight announcer as representatives from the agencies funded by United Way marched on stage wearing boxing gloves.
Kristin Funderburk, community relations manager, gave the results of last year’s mini-grant program. Donations totaling $2,500 made it possible to fully fund the three initiatives last year. She then announced three $1,000 mini-grants that United Way hoped to fund this year:
• Safe House for Women will use the funds to provide free cell phones to its clients as a safe way to communicate with their family members.
• Boy Scouts of America will use the money to start a new partnership with Boys and Girls Club to offer an after-school program that will introduce Scouting to underprivileged youth.
• First Call for Help will use the funds to help clients in need. In the past, the agency, in cooperation with the Community Caring Council, has provided steel-toed boots needed for someone to work, scrubs, baby gates, eyeglasses, medicine, a blood-pressure cuff and assisted in getting a seeing-eye-dog.
“We helped 58 families last year,” reported Denise Wimp, director of First Call for Help.
“These mini-grants represent just the tip of the iceberg,” said United Way Executive Director Elizabeth Shelton. “Collectively, the 24 partners and 30 programs that comprise the network of United Way of Southeast Missouri touched 32,964 lives: infants, children, students, working parents, senior citizens, and struggling individuals of all ages.
“We helped 17,474 people in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City, and Bollinger County by supporting Meals with Friends at the Salvation Army and food pantries with the Jackson Ministerial Alliance, the Scott City Ministerial Alliance, and Little Whitewater Baptist Church.
“Our support of APPLE, the Hoover Center, Lutheran Family & Children’s Services, and the Jackson Senior Center helped more than 7,000 senior citizens remain healthier and in their own homes.
“Our collaborative education initiative involving numerous partners, community organizations, and businesses helped to increase the graduation rate at Central High School from 68 percent to 88.9 percent in nine years, impressively near our 10-year goal of 90 percent by 2019.
“Emergency student funds in public schools in Cape, Jackson, Scott City, Scott County, Perryville, Woodland R-4, even Southeast Missouri State University enabled students in need to stay in school when financial emergencies like eyeglasses, prescriptions, a winter coat or dental care could have kept them home or caused them to drop out altogether.
“Generous volunteers tutored 288 students in Cape and Scott City through Read to Succeed, enabling 70 percent to gain a minimum of one reading level, some significantly more, and most importantly, moving some students from reading many grade levels behind to reading on level with their peers.
“As you can see, it doesn’t take a village. It takes everyone who fights with United Way: businesses, schools, churches, community groups, funded partners, and you. For every person in our community to be healthy, educated, and financially secure, it takes everyone to ‘Live United,’” she said.
Shelton reminded people that 99 percent of funds raised by United way are spent locally.
Next July begins a new three-year funding cycle for United Way. The strategic plan will be revised in the spring.
Another “Live United Tour” is planned for 2-5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19. This free bus tour will visit four or five agencies funded by United Way.
Shelton announced an “exhilarating opportunity” to raise funds. On May 17, 2019, anyone in the community can raise funds to “go over the edge” and rappel down Tower South on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.
Everyone who raises $1,000 can have the opportunity to rappel from the top of the tower.
With what may be described as a wicked smile, Shelton suggested that employees could raise $1,000 to “toss the boss” over the edge. Of course, bosses who donate more than $1,000 can save themselves from the adventure and designate some other “tossee.”
United way is seeking volunteers to help with that event. For more information about the united Way or any of its events, call 334-9634.