With a little more than half of the money raised for its 2012 campaign, the United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties is on track to meet its $1.4 million goal.
Executive Director Brenda Linnick said while the campaign is ahead in numbers with $771,272 raised, "we still have a long way to go."
The goal is an increase from the $1.3 million goal of the 2011 campaign. However, the needs of various partner organizations of United Way have increased as well, and requests are up in some areas, such as mental health services and senior and child advocacy.
Linnick noted while the goal was reached last year, the campaign funds were not enough to fulfill every request. Agencies are continuing to face cuts, which is making it a more difficult task to keep them adequately funded as new needs are emerging. Linnick estimated there to be about $1.6 million to $2 million in requests within the community.
Of all of the needs, cash assistance for rent, utilities, food and medical expenses continue to be the top needs.
"It's the cash assistance that's hard to come by," Linnick said.
In recent years, there also has been an increased need of resources for transportation, mental health services and prevention programs.
Linnick also encourages people to think about giving to others beyond the holidays when, come January, people are in need of heat, food and shelter.
"That's when they need the community to wrap their arms around them," said Linnick. "It's the long term solutions that we continue to strive for."
Assistant Director Todd Jasin said giving "isn't just about making a person feel good about themselves," but rather, it is about a community taking care of its own.
While some may think there is a disconnect between the economy and social services, Jasin begs to differ.
"Having a healthy community makes good economic sense," said Jasin, adding having a well-trained, drug-free work force will be key to attracting further economic development in the community.
"The days of relying on someone else are over. We all have to be invested in it," Linnick said. "An investment in United Way is an investment in the community."
One of the things about United Way that Linnick is most proud of is there is a focus on giving people tools, not handouts.
"The only way we can help somebody move from crisis to stability is by giving them a toolbox," she said. "We don't have a perfect system, (but) we have an incredible network of agencies. ... They try to work together so people aren't going from one resource to another."
Linnick also stressed that the majority of the money raised will be invested back into the community. Of the money raised by the United Way last year, 16.2 percent was used for overhead.
"People think our money leaves the community. It doesn't," she said.
For those interested in learning more about where campaign dollars are invested, more information is available at www.uwwayneholmes.org. Linnick also encourages people to be a part of the decision-making process by joining the all-volunteer allocations committee, which will help decide how the money is split among community agencies following the campaign.
Individuals interested in donating can do so online, by mail, or in person at the United Way, P.O. Box 548 215 South Walnut Street, Wooster 44691.
Reporter Amanda Rolik Gallagher can be reached at 330-287-1635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.