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United Way raises 94% of goal; cuts to partner agencies avoided


By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays Post
United Way of Ellis County finished its 2019 campaign in January 94 percent to goal.
Erica Berges, executive director, said the organization raised about $356,000 toward its goal and the Robert E. and Patricia A. Schmidt Foundation made a donation of $22,223 toward the goal at the end of the campaign. The total raised toward the United Way's $400,000 goal was $377,776.
The United Way was projecting to come in well short of goal, but Berges said several businesses gave more than they did last year and the organization was able to pull in some other last-minute donations from individuals.
The United Way's Care Council has met, and Berges said the organization plans to use some reserve funds so funding will not have to be cut the United Way's partner agencies.
"That is what we are here for is to keep those agencies funded," Berges said. "We wanted to make sure we could keep those at the same level."
The agencies will be learning by the end of the month how much they will be receiving. A press release will be issued to public after that on the 2020 allocations, Berges said.
"What the agencies do is very important," Berges said. "They hit all aspects of the population — from newborns to the elderly — and there is nobody left out. And really in all incomes levels too. There are ones that are in that lower income that need that extra help. Then there are services that anyone can use too like counseling and obviously the children's mentoring program."
As the United Way moves into 2020, Berges said the organization will be focusing on its marketing plan. The United Way is in talks with the Schmidt Foundation on a grant to assist in marketing. The amount of that grant has yet to be released.
"This year we are really going to be working hard on our marketing — on getting our story out there, making sure people know exactly what we do. I think that is sometimes the misconception," Berges said. "If we don't get our word out and people don't know what we do, then why would they give to us and not just to the agency directly?"
The United Way also will be looking at adding a special fundraising event in 2020.
After declining participation, the United Way discontinued its Night at the Mall fundraiser. The agency also did not conduct its annual online fundraising auction in 2019.
Berges said the United Way will be looking at new events and considering if it wishes to reinstate the online auction.
After six months with only one person in the United Way office upon the resignation of former director Sherry Dryden, the United Way hired a new administrative assistant in January, Bill Oyet.
The 22-year-old Oyet interned with the United Way last year and is a graduate of FHSU with a degree in business management. Olivia Albrecht, an FHSU  student in marketing, will also be joining the team as an intern.
Berges said she hoped both Oyet and Albrecht plus further marketing resources from the national United Way will help the United Way of Ellis County appeal to more young donors.