Santa on the Corner

Kids were able to get a photo with Santa on Toomer's Corner at the recent Santa on the Corner event, hosted each year by United Way and the Downtown Merchants Association. The event raises donations for United Way. Pictured here is Henry, the son of United Way board member Katie Kingston

As the year comes to a close, so does the annual fundraising campaign for the United Way of Lee County — a nonprofit that funds more than 20 local organizations, like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County, Child Advocacy Center, East Alabama Services for the Elderly and Lee County Literacy Coalition, among many others.

The goal for this year's campaign is $925,000, but as of Wednesday morning, campaign manager Kimberly Myers said the organization had only reached 65 percent of its goal.

"We do see that people are kind of doing last minute giving, which is great, but we really would love to have additional donations from maybe others that haven’t previously given and that would help us to reach our goal," she said. "It's so important because we will begin our allocation process in January. That’s the most important thing, getting those donations to our fabulous agencies where they can get the work done that’s needed in the community."

Money raised through this year's campaign will fund vetted organizations in 2020.

Myers said that when comparing this year's campaign progress to date with previous years, it seems giving is down.

"We see that we are lower than we have been, and there has been a little bit of a general decline in the last couple of years," Myers said. "It's really hard to put our finger on why, especially with the economy being so great."

Myers said one possibility could be that Lee County residents really showed up to give when the spring tornadoes rolled through.

"People in Lee County were so incredibly generous when the tornado came, and we were very involved in that," she said. "I do know the people of Lee County are so generous, and I think if we can get our word out there — who we are and what we do — we know people will want to partner with us and bring hope to those who need it."

United Way of Lee County sets its focus on supporting the community through funding organizations that provide assistance in education, health, crisis and that work to strengthen the community as a whole, Myers said. Many United Way agencies partner together to achieve their goals and provide for those who seek their help.

"It's really fun for me to learn how much they work together," Myers said. "They utilize each other as a resource. It really is just everybody coming together to do what is best for the community and what is needed."

New organizations submit applications to United Way each year, hoping to be considered for funding, and those that received funding in 2019 will have to go back through the application process and be re-vetted. The allocation process is a tedious one that involves site visits and a detailed evaluation of each organization's financial documents.

"They have to submit all kinds of documentation of how they've used the money in the past and what they are requesting the money for in 2020," Myers said. "It's so important we do reach goal because, for our returning agencies, we want to be able to continue to fund them as we did last year or, if they need more, we want to be able to do everything that needs to be done."

Those who are unfamiliar with United Way can visit unitedwayofleecounty.com to find out more about the organization and to see a list of its current funded agencies. Those who would like to make a donation can do so through the website, and Myers stressed that any amount makes a difference.

"If you can only give $10, $10 is an amazing gift," she said. "When I donate my money and you donate your money and somebody else donates, that money adds up quickly and organizations are able to use those funds so wisely. They can stretch those funds so far and make such a difference.

"Every little bit does count. Even if you think your gift is a small gift, it is important to somebody in the community."

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