When people donate to United Way of Hill County, they ought to be thinking of the people served by the funded agencies, said Lorraine Verploegen.
Verploegen, executive director of the local United Way, said she has met lots of people who have been assisted by the agencies. She spoke to the annual kickoff dinner at Montana State University-Northernâ€™s Student Union Building.
One of the most impressive, she said, was Brian Johnson. At a recent meeting of Montana United Way executive directors, Johnson introduced himself and said he had probably taken advantage of services provided by each of the agencies.
As a child, members of his family suffered from drug abuse. His family needed food. He was in foster care most of his life.
He planned to become a priest, Verploegen said. â€śThen he met a lady who convinced him to become a different kind of father,â€ť she said.
Today, she said, the 27-year-old Johnson is executive director of United Way of Lewis & Clark County, the Helena area.
He has a brilliant future, she said, in part because of the services provided by United Way agencies.
â€śNow he is helping other children through their problems,â€ť she said.
Verploegen said people who contribute to United Way today are helping the Brian Johnsons of today.
She thanked the many community groups that have been helping United Way in its fundraising efforts.
Older people have been especially generous, she said.
The drive has just begun, she said, but 30 contributions have already been made.
Twenty-six of those are from retired people, she said.
This is her sixth year as executive director, she said. In that time, the amount donated by retired people has increased from $7,000 to $11,000, she said.
â€śSo many of them know what itâ€™s like to go hungry or need other services,â€ť she said.
The Havre community has been generous to United Way, she said.
â€śThis is the most giving community I have ever heard of,â€ť she said, â€śThere are always auctions or benefits going on every weekend to help people,â€ť she said. â€śAnd Havre people are always going.
â€śI love living in Havre, Montana,â€ť she said.
A large crowd attended the opening dinner, which formally launches the fund drive.