Habersham County United Way campaign in home stretch

“I’m putting my faith in God and the wonderful people in Habersham County,” is how Habersham County United Way Board of Directors President Jim Weidner describes waiting for the last funds to come in, for the organization to meet its campaign goal of $575,000.
Wednesday, Deanna Mote, HCUW campaign chairwoman, said the annual fundraising campaign begins each year in August at Family Fun Fest, and “we try to have the goal met” at the annual meeting, to be held this year Feb. 25.
Currently, Mote said, HCUW is at 96 percent of its goal. While that sounds good, with the “pretty lofty goal” of $575,000, the organization is still more than $20,000 short.
HCUW collects funds and distributes them to 24 partner agencies, plus LiFT (Learning Independence for Tomorrow), a tutoring program at Habersham Central High School. Partner agencies include Circle of Hope, Grace Gate, Habersham County libraries, 4-H Clubs, Habersham Homeless Ministries, and Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Georgia, among many others.
Mote and Weidner stress that 99 cents of each dollar collected helps Habersham County residents.
The agencies are evaluated annually, Mote said, and agency directors must report to HCUW “what they’ve done with the funds, and how they’ve helped people from Habersham County.” She said HCUW also looks at how each agency conducts its own fundraising, “so they’re not depending 100 percent on United Way” for funding.
While several agencies, including Challenged Child and Friends, Rape Response and Power House for Kids, are not headquartered in Habersham County, funds given to those agencies by HCUW are based on how many Habersham County residents use those services, Mote said.
“We keep 99 cents of every dollar in Habersham County, and we make sure what we’re giving is going for Habersham County residents,” Mote said.
Mote said the goal of $575,000 was the same as the previous year’s goal. Since it was met last year, she’s hopeful it will be met again this year.
While it’s hard to tally the reach of HCUW, according to a needs assessment provided by HCUW Executive Director Billy Boyd, one estimate is more than 26,000 people in Habersham County are helped annually through HCUW. This includes 7,000 library patrons who take advantage of library programs and 6,035 reported people helped by the Sharing and Caring Place.
“There are so many needs in the community, and, like with anything else, resources are limited,” Weidner said. “But at United Way, we feel like we maximize the resources that are available, and get those resources to those agencies who help people, directly on a day-to-day basis.”
“What God teaches us to do is to help our neighbors,” he added. “That’s our intent, to help those who need help.”
JoAnn Kennedy, director of Habersham Homeless Ministries, is the voice of just one agency funded, in part, by HCUW.
“I’m very appreciative of their help,” Kennedy said. “We wouldn’t be here without them.” She said Habersham Homeless Ministries received its first funding from HCUW 17 years ago. “They’ve been a lifeline to us ever since. I can’t imagine this county without them,” she said.
Kennedy said HCUW funds primarily go toward upkeep of Habersham Homeless Ministries’ five shelters and helping its clients. But the organization also has a homeless prevention program, which provides funds to help people stay in their homes if they are being threatened with an eviction.
“They are vital to our ministry,” Kennedy said of HCUW. “They are really a great group of people, and they do wonders to keep Habersham a great place to live.”
Nannette Baughman, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Georgia, agrees. She said HCUW is “a bridge” linking those who need help with vetted, helping agencies.
“[HCUW] is truly a valued, respected and vital part of what makes our community such a compassionate and caring place to live,” Baughman said.
In the home stretch to meet the goal, if each resident in Habersham County only gave one dollar, “We’d surpass the goal significantly,” Weidner said.
Boyd echoed that thought. “A lot of small gifts help us reach a very large goal,” he said.
“We are still a little bit short, but we’re optimistic that we will reach our goal,” Boyd added. “I’m pleased. Everybody is working hard and our community is supporting United Way. If anybody hasn’t taken advantage of participating, there’s still time to get in the game.”
Donors can give by calling the Habersham County United Way office at 706- 778-0620 or by visiting unitedwayhabersham.org. Email habuw@hemc.net for more information.

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