United Way kicks off 2012-13 fund campaign

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Organization supports education, senior and youth programs throughout southern Chester County

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

United Way of Southern Chester County is kicking off its annual fund drive — from left: UWSCC board president Karen Myers, Board Vice President Ed Sparks and UWSCC Executive Director Carrie Freeman display one of the signs seen around the community reminding folks to give locally.

AVONDALE — Although the need has never been greater, the supply of donations for the United Way of Southern Chester County has never been tighter as households around the area find themselves tightening belts for yet another year.

Despite this challenging reality, the organization launched its annual fund drive last week at Hartefeld National Golf Club intent to at least match last year’s totals in excess of $1 million, allowing to continue supporting various agencies and need groups across the southern part of the county.

“These are tough times,” said Karen Myers, president of the UWSCC’s board of directors. “We’ve seen a decrease in government funding of programs, so that makes it doubly difficult.”

As part of the effort to both increase donations and community involvement, UWSCC plans to add a third event — joining the annual Pasta Dinner and Road Rally — a chocolate lovers festival in Feb. 2013. The event will invite local community members to offer up their chocolate creations to compete for the title of best in southern Chester County.

“We’re always looking for ways to involve the community,” said Jeff Yetter, who is charing the new chocolate event. “Plus, we see it as an opportunity for a lot of the small businesses to get involved: baking or creating a chocolate dish is something even the smallest business can do.”

Bringing more donors into the organization is key, said Ed Sparks, the UWSCC board Vice President leading this year’s fundraising campaign — for two reasons: the total number of donors has slipped slightly (although continuing donors increased their giving, allowing for UWSCC to meet its goal), and while corporate-based giving (much from Wilmington-based companies with local employees) has been solid, the organization is working to generate more local donations from individuals; and as has been the case for a number of years, the need well exceeds the available funds.

“We had more than $150,000 in requests beyond what we could fund,” Sparks said. “Our hope is to expand our donor base.”

UWSCC is using some new tools to focus efforts in the community, from making direct appeals, via direct mail to new ways to reach out to possible donors.

But, Sparks noted, the organization is careful not to bite off more than it can chew, always looking to keep goals realistic — seeking a consistent incremental growth, rather than seeking to make a one-year big splash in fund raising.

Any number of local organizations are dependent on funding from UWSCC, from the Garage programs in Kennett Square and West Grove, to health and nutrition, literacy and education support programs.

“We were able to invest almost a million dollars in our community to support 32 programs serving a wide array of human needs this year. This is only possible because over 2000 southern Chester County residents made donations to UWSCC during last fall’s campaign,” said Carrie Freeman, Executive Director of United Way of Southern Chester County. “We are asking all our residents to join us in improving the lives of their neighbors by making a donation this fall to the campaign. We welcome donations large or small…what’s important is that everyone give at whatever level they are comfortable with.  Go to www.unitedwayscc.org to learn how easy it is to give.”

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