United Way lending helping hand to organizations

Published 12:10 am Monday, December 7, 2015

BY Megan Ashley Fink

NATCHEZ — Ebenezer Scrooge, from the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol,” vowed at the end of the novel to keep the Christmas spirit going all year long.

The United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou has made that idea a reality.

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Chairman of the United Way Community Investment Campaign Mike Gemmell said the organization supports partner charities by lending its fundraising services and international recognition to local causes.

“Every penny raised stays in the Natchez and Concordia Parish area,” Gemmell said.

The United Way supports local organizations such as the Adams County Red Cross, Catholic Charities, the Guardian Center for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, Habitat for Humanity, Natchez-Adams and Concordia Councils on Aging, the and T.M. Jennings baseball league.

Gemmell said that in order to become sponsored by the United Way, organizations must conform to a national set of guidelines.

“A lot of (those local organizations) have a plaque on the front door saying, ‘we are a member of the United Way,’” Gemmell said. “That’s the goodwill stamp of approval, and says that they are a charitable agency that uses its funds to help their clients live better.”

Gemmell said that the United Way provides monetary support and volunteer labor to these local organizations.

“Volunteers are working off and on to keep the United Way going, to collect funds, and to assist those in dire need,” Gemmell said.

The organization also hosts its annual jambalaya cook-off as part of its campaign, he said.

“It’s one of our major fundraisers.” Gemmell said.

This year’s cook-off will take place at noon on Jan. 21 at the convention center, and its theme will be Jambalaya for the Tricentennial.

“We’ll try to include colonial, French, Spanish and Native American foods,” Gemmell said.

Volunteers expect to feed approximately 1,000 people each year at the event.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Gemmell said.

The United Way gathers its funds through corporate and personal donations and through deductions that employees volunteer from their paychecks.

The United Way’s main source of support is through the employee payroll deduction program,” Gemmell said. “We ask the CEOs and presidents of major corporations to encourage their employees to join this deduction plan that allows us to deduct money from each paycheck. “

Gemmell said employees who take part in the plan have the option to designate their contributions to a specific charity, or to the general fund, which will be divided amongst the partner organizations per national United Way guidelines.

Corporations and individuals whose workplaces do not take part in the deduction program can donate via liveunitedmisslou.org.