"I'm excited that it's at 80 percent right now but we usually like to have hit our goal by now," said Brenda Morehouse, president for the United Way of Bartow County. "We still have a little ways to go but we have the Anheuser-Busch campaign and a lot of campaigns that people are doing a little bit later this season because they're waiting till either they've got their end-of-the-year bonuses or when they're busier .... but we are very confident that still having some of the larger campaigns to go that we're going to hit our goal with no problem."
To date, about 26 businesses are offering payroll deduction campaigns for their employees. This measure, which enables employees to donate a minimal amount yearlong, with a portion of their paycheck designated to the United Way, is the primary source of funding for the nonprofit's 2011 Live United Campaign.
Last year, about 50 companies helped the United Way meet its goal of raising $575,000 by offering payroll deduction and providing corporate matches. For the past two years, the top supporters of the drive have been Georgia Power, Shaw Industries, Publix and Anheuser-Busch.
Funds raised through the campaign are dispersed, based on need, to United Way's 15 agencies: AIDS Alliance of Northwest Georgia, Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, Bartow County 4-H Club, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, Bartow Civil Air Patrol, American Red Cross, Christian League for Battered Women, New Beginnings Food Outreach, The Salvation Army, Good Shepherd Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Hickory Log Vocational School, North Bartow Community Services, Bartow Health Access and Advocates for Children. The nonprofits provide services to more than 60,000 area residents each year.
"I want people to understand that there are resources here. Especially right now during the holidays [they are] able to call the office and [find] help," Morehouse said. "But as far as getting out into the community, we really need to advocate about United Way and how companies can get involved. And how payroll deduction campaigns really help the money to go back into the community and how the need in the community is so much greater now whereas the donations have come down."
In addition to funds being generated through payroll deduction campaigns, special events like the recent Turkey Trot also go toward reaching the United Way's $475,000 goal. On Nov. 20, the 5K run raised $6,879 and featured 487 participants. Along with bragging rights, the overall winners -- Brandon Davis, 16 minutes, 51 seconds, and Abbie Robinson, 18:30 -- received a frozen turkey, a trophy and a certificate.
This year's Turkey Trot was unique in that it was being accompanied by a shadow race in northern Afghanistan. Held at Camp Dehdadi II, the overseas 5K was expected to draw at least 350 participants, ranging from soldiers and sailors to airmen.
"The captain approached us about it and we were excited to help out and a little bit humbled to be asked," said John Cremers, a former United Way board member, who helped spearhead the United Way's initial Turkey Trot. "There's a lot of things we could not do for them, such as timing and laying out a course but we gave them encouragement and we sent them T-shirts to build excitement for the race over there. We were just really happy to help -- anything we can do to raise the morale and let them know they're being thought of back home."
For more information about the United Way or its fundraising campaign, call 770-386-1677 or visit www.bartowliveunited.org.