Athens Review, Athens, Texas

November 27, 2012

United Way organizer tells Kiwanis Club there’s lots of work to do

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The Henderson County United Way campaign raises funds to benefit more than 20 organizations, and Board Member Heidi Knowles told the Athens Kiwanis Club Tuesday that a lot of work is still to be done to reach the 2012 goal.

That mark was set at $175,000, but only $68,000 has come in to date. Donations are needed, and no gift is too small to do some good, Knowles said.

United Way got its start 125 years ago in Denver.  By 1974, the year  after United Way began a long-standing partnership with the National Football League, donations exceeded $1 billion for the first time. In 1997, the donations climbed to $3.4 billion. In 2001, the year of the 9-11 disaster, United Way joined with a New York group, and donated more than $425 million to survivors and families of victims of the tragedy.

Knowles said she didn’t realize the full impact of United Way on the community, until she began serving on the board.

“It’s basically a collection of diverse people in your community, people of every type of organization, and every type of person, coming together to raise money,” Knowles said.

Locally, the money is spread out to organizations like Labor of Love, Meals on Wheels, 4-H clubs and the Boy Scouts. Knowles said groups who seek their help are required to fill out lengthy applications in the screening process. The organizations submit a request for the amount of money they need, and United Way disperses the funds that are available.

Tough decisions are made in the allocation process, because of the limited amount of funds and the growing need. Henderson County United Way official Mary Waddell said the United Way has fallen short of its goal in each of the last two drives.

Knowles said Henderson County United Way works with very low overhead. There’s no office, and a great deal of the work goes on in Waddell’s house.

“She’s the workhorse of the United Way,” Knowles said. “We don’t have employees, and we don’t spend a lot of money on staff.”