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A big thanks from United Way board

By By BILL CRIST – Publisher
A few words of thanks are due to this community, and on behalf of the board of directors of the United Way of Brewton and East Brewton, I want to extend them with sincere and heart-felt appreciation. On Friday, the deadline we set to wrap up this year's campaign, the board learned it had secured pledges and donations exceeding the $80,000 goal we set for ourselves nearly nine months ago.
One of the most satisfying parts of being involved with any group is watching it grow over time. That certainly has been the case with our local United Way, which had floundered for several years before resuming its perch among the top local fundraisers last year. The reason it is so important that United Way is successful here is that almost all of the money raised here, goes back to work within our own community. It does not travel to Mobile, Birmingham or Washington D.C. for distribution, it stays here in an account at BankTrust or the Bank of Brewton and checks are written directly to the local agencies that receive United Way support.
Two years ago the United Way wrote checks totaling about $54,000 to 12 local agencies. That dollar figure and the number of agencies involved had been pretty constant for the previous several years which raised some concern in our community. Several community leaders questioned the organization's relevance and ability to raise the money it needed to carry out its mission. Some of the agencies had begun to seek alternative methods of funding their important services. As needs continued to grow, the United Way fund seemed mired in mediocrity.
Two years ago several of the board members were challenged to reverse that trend, and to restore the United Way of Brewton and East Brewton to the strong organization it had once been here. By involving a couple of the larger local industries, fundraising efforts topped the $71,000 mark. That increase was important not only symbolically, but because the local board had added a thirteenth agency to fund. When the campaign kicked off last fall, the volunteers were facing backlash over national charities' blunders, including the national United Way. They worked hard to overcome those perceptions and were largely successful in doing so.
Last year, Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. joined the effort and through a strong employee payroll deduction program, the company played a large part in raising the $71,000 and setting a benchmark for this year's campaign to exceed.
This year, the employees at T. R. Miller Mill Company came to bat and hit a home run, raising over $11,000 in employee contributions which were matched by the company. Their total donation represents over 25 percent of the money raised in this year's campaign and is further evidence of the good work that the now 14 agencies are doing in our area. Workers at the Escambia County Courthouse participated this year as well, meaning that efforts to involve more people in the drive were paying off.
The United Way's board of directors and the campaign workers are all volunteers. That is one of the ways that the local group is able to give so much money back to the community. As the number of agencies that fall under the United Way umbrella increases, so will the need to raise even more funds. The volunteers who have worked hard to make that happen the last two years are to be commended for the trend they've started. Even more importantly though, the individuals who contribute to United Way, those that have given for years as well as those that gave for the first time this year, deserve to be recognized. They are the real heroes of the campaign by making it possible for the local groups to continue to provide their important services.
To the board of directors and campaign volunteers, you have my thanks. To each and every individual, business and foundation that contributed to this year's successful campaign, you have this entire community's sincere appreciation. You have done more than your "fair share" and can be proud of what we have accomplished here in Brewton.
be contacted via email at bill.crist@brewtonstandard.com