The Ottumwa Courier

March 22, 2013

United Way campaign making a difference

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — The United Way of Wapello County is more than a checkbook for nonprofit agencies, but the $533,000 they raised during its 2012 Annual Community Giving Campaign will go a long way toward making a difference.

“We’re able to do a lot of good work with the money,” said Desiree Johnson, president and CEO for the United Way of Wapello County. “We combine the donations from thousands of people across the community and invest that in programs that are focused on education, income and health.

They’ll announce specific 2013 program investments next week, she said.

Even with more than half a million dollars entrusted to them by the people of the community, it’s a bit less than in some previous years — but those were record-setting years. Their goal next year will indirectly factor in the more fragile economy.

“We always look at what we raised the year before and take that into consideration,” Johnson said. “Our board looked at how we could come up with new ways to improve our campaign and bring in more funds. One of the things we’re going to look at is having more of a year-round engagement with the companies that support the United Way.”

She said John Deere Ottumwa Works is one of the businesses that supports the United Way. During the most recent campaign, they achieved “the largest annual combined workplace and retiree campaign total” in United Way’s 71-year history, raising $105,477.

But it takes more than just money to see real change in a community.

“Key to the successful implementation of the strategies is the continued commitment of citizens, philanthropists and business leaders,” says Tony Floden, chairman of the United Way of Wapello County Board of Directors.

“We are about more than money,” Johnson said. “We’re looking at community impact. Our community definitely has some challenges, but we also have some great opportunities to work together to bring about community-level change.”

In fact, that’s something supported by the United Way of Wapello County. When they discover one small group of people who want to make a difference, the United Way makes an effort to hook them up with another small group or two. That combination means they’re all pulling in the same direction, allowing them to accomplish a task together which might not have been possible alone.

Johnson said the United Way is recruiting people and organizations with “the passion, expertise and commitment” to make Wapello County a better place to live.

“We’re at that point where over the next year or two, you’re going to see some positive changes in the community. As I go out into the community,” she said, “I see people working together a lot more, communicating more, to get things done.”

For a complete list of the 2012 Campaign Awards and Recognitions, visit the United Way website at www.wapellocouw.org.