Prairieland United Way Annual Meeting Reflects on Successful 2020 Campaign In Spite of COVID

By Jeremy Coumbes on April 15, 2021 at 2:46pm

The Prairieland United Way had a successful 2020 campaign in spite of the pandemic.

A small group met at Hamilton’s in downtown Jacksonville this morning for the Prairieland United Way’s annual meeting. The meeting was unusual this year as it was a combination in-person and virtual hybrid via live stream on the Prairieland United Way Facebook page.

Executive Director Karen Walker says although the meeting was much smaller than in years past with barely 40 people in attendance, it still felt good to be back in Hamilton’s and hold a semi-normal annual meeting.

Walker says although the pandemic took a toll on fundraising this year, the group was able to reach 97% of their goal for the 2020 campaign.

We ended at 97% so just over $451,000. It was about $20,000 less than we raised a year ago. So while we were disappointed that we were not at 100% of goal, that would have been a great way to end kind of a difficult year. But we were so thankful, and we recognize that’s still a significant amount of money that we will get used in our community.

All of the money that we raised stays here to support our agencies inn our four county area. This year with our allocation process, we actually had eight more programs than we did a year ago who asked for funding. The board really stepped up and said we, as much as the Bentons took it on, know that this wasn’t the year to sit back and do less because of our situation, they needed our help even more.

So the board made the decision to put extra money in just taking from some reserves we had, to really step up and make sure that we continue to support our communities so that we can have the programming that is so necessary to help those individuals and families that are struggling.”

Walker says with the extra need in the community currently, the Prairieland United Way will be supporting 28 agencies and 37 different programs throughout Cass, Morgan, Scott and northern Greene counties.

She says the community was huge in how they stepped up to help support this year’s campaign during the pandemic. She says even though the campaign was able to persevere, the pandemic did takes it’s toll, especially in one area of giving.

Where we struggled, we track our donations based on kind of a campaign map as groups of people whether it’s individuals or businesses. And we exceeded in every aspect except for our employee campaigns, and understandably so.

We typically do about 80 meetings a year with our business partners. We come in and meet with the employee groups, we have our agencies share our message of what their work is doing in the community and how important the support is, and we were only able to do seven this year. So a huge drop in what we were able to do and I still thank those businesses that were able to do what they did.”

The top 20 most generous workplaces were recognized during the meeting. Walker says Bound to Stay Bound was this year’s top workplace. She says many thanks go out to the Siebert family for their support this year.

Walker says The Helen Baldwin Award was presented to Doctors Margaret and Charles Wilson for both their past support and the way they stepped up this year to help out when many in the community needed it most.

She says special thanks go out to 2020 Campaign Co-Chairs Reg and Cynthia Benton.

The 2021 Campaign Co-Chairs were also announced, they are Amy and Brian Gillespie. Walker says they are very excited to have the Gillespies for this year’s campaign. She says Amy’s experience as a teacher in District 117 and Brian serving as a firefighter gives them a unique insight into the work Prairieland United Way takes on in the community.