By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Today marks the kickoff of the annual fund-raising campaign for the United Way of Hill County. This year, the organization hopes to raise $123,375 - about $3,000 less than last year's goal.
Representatives from the 19 agencies funded by United Way and the organization's 15 board members began the campaign at a luncheon today at the District IV Human Resources Development Council building.
"During the luncheon, each board member will be assigned to an agency," said United Way assistant director Dottie Rice. "The board member works hand in hand with the agency to ensure that our packages are distributed to every business."
The packages contain informational pamphlets and pledge sheets. Employees are encouraged to pledge a donation to the United Way of Hill County from their paychecks. The money, which can either be on a one-time or a continuing basis, will be withheld by their employers. The employers are responsible for collecting each donation and returning it to the United Way.
The money can be earmarked for a specific agency within the United Way, Rice said.
"People may pledge that the money go to any agency they choose," she said. "They can either give to the United Way for us to distribute or they can designate which agency they want their money to go to. People have a choice about where the money will be spent."
Some companies will match whatever is donated by their employees, said United Way treasurer Robert Floren.
"Basically we work on individuals' and corporate donations," he said. "A lot of the companies will raise funds from their people, and then match that money. A lot of the companies do that, and that's a huge help for us. Tilleman Motors and NorthWestern Energy have been great about doing that. They've been far and above some of the best givers."
The paycheck pledges are not the only way the United Way of Hill County raises money this time of year, Rice said.
"There's a letter that goes out to the seniors - they tend to be pretty generous," she said. "We get a pretty good response from our senior citizens. Their donations are essential to making our campaign a success."
Another fund-raiser is the Monday Night Football event held at Boxcars Casino. The event includes football-related door prizes and a football pool. The fund-raiser typically generates several thousand dollars for the United Way, Floren said.
Last year's campaign came short of the organization's goal of $125,945. The shortfall followed two consecutive years in which the United Way of Hill County was able to raise about 95 percent of its goals.
"We had two pretty good years in a row," Floren said. "Then last year wasn't so great. We were only at 45 percent of our goal halfway through the campaign. We got some late donations that really helped us out, and we ended up at about 90 percent of our goal."
The final figure included a $4,000 cushion that had been carried over from the previous year, he added.
"That gave us a little boost," Floren said. "We cut back on travel and printing costs. We trimmed our administrative budget."
The group also opted to extend last year's campaign, Rice said.
"The campaign normally runs until December, depending on how the campaign is going. Last year, we ended up extending it until the first part of January," she said.
The United Way's goal last year of raising $126,000 was a sharp increase from previous years, in which the fund-raising goal was around $100,000. Rice attributed the increase to two factors.
"State funding has decreased and more people need help," she said.
The United Way of Hill County helps fund 19 agencies, including the North Havre Community Services Food Bank, the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line, the Havre Domestic Abuse Program, the Salvation Army, the Council on Aging, and a dozen others.
"The Salvation Army, the Council on Aging and Meals on Wheels are among our largest recipients," Floren said, "and then probably Feed My Sheep Soup Kitchen. We try to target the children and the elderly in the community. Those seem to be where the heaviest needs are."
Rice said she is optimistic that the United Way of Hill County can meet its goal this year.
"If the agencies and the board members get out and work hard, we should be able to make it," she said.
Floren said that even the smallest donation to the campaign will make a difference.
"We're just hoping that this year everyone gets out and helps the United Way," Floren said. "Every little bit helps. Even if it's only a dollar - the cost of a latte or a movie - it all adds up. If we can get just a little bit out of everybody it will really benefit the community and those that truly need help."