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United Fund dissolved, becoming United Way

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The Henry County United Fund Board of Directors voted June 28 to dissolve the local United Fund organization.

The board of directors has been meeting regularly and discussing reorganization since Nov. 10, 2017, when they fired then-director Kim Kilgore.

Board president Lara Sullivan explained this week that the board formally dissolved United Fund so they could reform as a new member of United Way Worldwide.

There are currently fewer than 10 “United Funds” remaining in Indiana. 

“We want to become more ‘problem solvers’ rather than a pass-through,” Sullivan said. “United Ways have these innovative practices in place in order to do that.”

Henry County United Fund has traditionally acted as a central fundraising agency for local non-profits.

United Fund would collect donations throughout the year and then distribute them to local health and civic and character-building institutions, like Needy Meds, CRADLES, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Henry County, Westminster Community Center and the Christian Love Help Center.

As part of United Ways Worldwide, the Henry County arm will have access to the United Ways’ method of “assessing community needs, understanding community will and building an impact strategy to meet those needs.”

“We have quickly recognized that their tools, training and opportunities for the next innovations in philanthropy (like mobile giving) would be critical to really taking service to Henry County residents to the next level,” Sullivan said.

Some United Ways work to end generational poverty and improve financial stability in their area, while others try to reduce drug addiction and improve early childhood education opportunities in their community.

Details should be out in the next couple of weeks about the official timeline and plan for how Henry County will be served by United Way.

Sullivan said the board members of the now-defunct Henry County United Fund want to make sure Henry County voices continue to be heard in the United Way organization and that Henry County donations stay within the community.

Long local history

The history of the Henry County fundraising organization stretches back to the late 1930s.

In the fall of 1937, a group of New Castle citizens decided to consolidate the budgets and resources of their individual organizations into one fundraising body known as The New Castle Community Fund.

The Community Fund became Henry County United Fund in 1967.

The first time Henry County United Fund became the United Way of Henry County was in January 1976.

Henry County United Fund noted at that time that joining the national organization would give it access to widespread media advertising and increased purchasing power.

In 1997, United Way of Henry County broke ties with the national organization and returned to the name “Henry County United Fund.”

Day of Caring

One thing Sullivan wants the community to know is that the annual Day of Caring volunteer event is still happening this year. 

“We do not want to lose any momentum we have created over the years,” Sullivan said.

This year’s Day of Caring is the 25th anniversary of the community event, an unbroken tradition since it started in 1993.

“The Day of Caring will go on as usual,” said Debi Ware, who is heading up Day of Caring.

The Henry County Day of Caring event typically brings in more than 750 volunteers from around the community to help with dozens of different projects.

Teams of volunteers set aside the first Friday of September each year to carry goodwill and manpower to the corners of the county.

Last year, groups helped clean up the Guyer Opera House in Lewisville and the Octagon House in Shirley.

Day of Caring volunteers have also helped build wheelchair ramps in the past and stopped by the homes of elderly residents who just needed someone to help them mow the grass.

“It can be anybody that has a need in the community that we can help,” Ware said.

The Day of Caring Committee will continue accepting project ideas until Friday, July 20.

To suggest a project, search “Henry County Day of Caring” on Facebook, email hcdayofcaring@gmail.com or call 765-521-7410.

Volunteers who want to take part in the 2018 Day of Caring are encouraged to attend a meeting at 4 p.m. today at Star Financial Bank, 403 Parkview Drive, New Castle.