United Way prepares for annual campaign kickoff

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — A penny here and a dollar there all comes together to help fund what Youth Court Judge John Hudson calls one of the most important programs his agency provides.

The Abuse and Neglect Tracking Program provides essential follow-up on reports and Hudson said it’s a key program to safeguarding the area’s children.

The United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou is one source of funding for the program.

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“It’s a critical role in us getting the funding to create preventative programs to work to eradicate as much as we can of these unfortunate cases in this area,” Hudson said.

“Abuse and neglect is some of the most critical work youth court does.”

The Adams County Youth Court is only one of the many agencies that receive funding from the United Way each year.

It’s the work of the agencies the United Way has in mind as the organization gears up for its annual campaign.

United Way Director Marsha Colson said one of the best ways to encourage donations and campaign participation is to show how far the community’s money can go.

Colson said $3 will buy 10 pounds of groceries for the Food Pantry, and $50 will feed a family for a week.

Screws, nails and other hardware materials can be provided for a Habitat for Humanity House for $50.

And one child can play little league baseball in the T.M. Jennings League for only $30.

“If you say, ‘This is what $100 will do for the Sunshine Shelter, this is what $200 will do at one of the Catholic Charities agencies,’ then people will realize that their dollars are going to work,” Colson said.

While the campaign does not officially start until Aug. 20 with the annual United Way jambalaya cook-off, Colson said much work is taking place behind the scenes in preparation for campaign.

The goal has already been set at $175,000, which is $25,000 more than last year’s $150,000 goal.

Colson said applications from each agency requesting increased funds upped the overall goal this year.

“This year, every agency that I know of is having a great increase in requests for assistance,” Colson said. “Last year, we didn’t start having a volume of calls (for assistance) until around November.

“People are very much more in need this year.”

Colson said the recession has played into the increase in need this year, but she does not feel like it will play into the community’s willingness to give to the campaign.

Campaign chairman Darryl Grennell said initially he was hesitant in setting the goal even higher this year.

He said he wanted to keep the goal at $150,000 like the previous year but is optimistic nonetheless that this year’s goal is achievable.

“Even in difficult times I have felt that people are willing to help others,” Grennell said. “It’s just a great human quality that we have here in Natchez, Adams County.”

Colson agreed that the Miss-Lou has a knack for helping others, even if it’s little by little.

Recalling last year’s roadblock in Vidalia where after four hours $2,500 was raised, Colson said people are willing to give anything they can.

“We know how much pennies and dollars make,” she said.

But Colson said the economic times cannot be overlooked, and she said by starting early, hopefully the most participation can be netted.

Currently, she is asking for company, business and organization participation in the campaign.

“Already we’re having new organizations participate that haven’t in the past,” Colson said.

She said this gives her hope that the campaign will be a success.

Working behind the scenes now also is the United Way allocation committee, which is responsible for designating funds accrued through the campaign.

Part of that decision-making process is to be fully educated on what each agency does and its needs to be able to better make the allocation.

“Even if the dollar amount (the committee) agrees on isn’t feasible based on what the campaign brought in, they can have an idea of what percentage of what we raise each agency will get,” Colson said.

The campaign will last through Nov. 30.

“We are hoping that it will be as successful as ever,” Grennell said.