Jarrod Lazarus, Greg Grensing, and Mike Scutero of the MTSU basketball program said supporting United Way is an important part of community outreach. TMP/J. Thouin
Despite the early morning hour, more than 100 people gathered for the United Way 2012 kickoff last week.
”I don’t know of a better way that you can support your community,” said Chuck Lewis, market president at First Bank and retiring United Way board member.
Supporting the community was a common theme among attendees.
“Our goal is to work with the community and give back a little bit for people supporting our program,” said Greg Grensing, assistant basketball coach at Middle Tennessee State University.
Sponsored by the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, the before business hours event, held at the new Middle Tennessee Medical Center, drew a variety of professionals and community organizers.
Neil Smith, a professional disc jockey who just moved to Murfreesboro from Los Angeles, said he was anxious to learn more about United Way.
“Everybody’s heard of United Way, but I’m here to learn more about what they do,” he said.
Educating the community is exactly what the United Way campaign is all about, Board Chairman Pat Murphy said.
Board members and United Way staff meet with area employers and employees to explain what United Way is, the organization’s mission and how United Way impacts the community.
“I love the concept of calling it ‘Your United Way’ because it really is something that belongs to all of us,” said Cheryl Hultman, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates in the state of Tennessee.
The list of United Way agencies in Rutherford and Cannon Counties is long and varied. Victims of domestic violence, underprivileged children, the elderly, scouts, those with emotional struggles, the homeless and even those needing help with income tax returns are just some of the Rutherford County and Canon residents who have benefited from United Way.
Jim Thompson, owner of Thompson Services in Rockvale and current United Way board member, said it’s all about paying it forward.
“I was orphaned at age 12, and I know people paid it forward for me,” Thompson said.
United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties’ fundraising goal for fiscal year 2013-2014 is $2.3 million dollars. Even though the campaign is just getting started, they already have more than $600,000 in pledges.
In 2012, United Way invested $2,367,901.42 back into the community and directly impacted more than 40 percent of the population in Rutherford and Cannon counties.
The advantage of workplace giving is that United Way donations are deducted straight from the donor’s paycheck, which is an easy way to give, said Hultman.
In her job with CASA, Hultman travels all over the state. She noted that in areas with a well-run United Way organization, such as the one in Rutherford and Cannon counties, the entire community thrives from the undergirding of its nonprofit network.
One mission of United Way is to be a vehicle through which the various non-profits in a community can partner together for the common good.
Andy Seiler, the new director of Rutherford County Salvation Army, said United Way has been a great resource for his organization.
Another purpose of United Way is to make sure all donor dollars are spent providing real services to the community.
In the next few months United Way will work with area schools, other nonprofits and city and county officials to conduct a community wide needs assessment. United Way contributors can always predetermine which agency receives their money. However, through this effort, the United Way board will have a better understanding of where general funds can make the biggest impact.
“Everyone in this room knows how blessed we are in this community,” said Thompson.
United Way contributes to that blessing, he noted.