Complete with a chairperson dressed as Wonder Woman, the United Way of Effingham County kicked off its 2014 fundraising campaign Wednesday with the theme of “together working wonders.”
The United Way unveiled a goal of $317,000, the highest ever in its 31 years of campaigns in Effingham. Last year’s campaign raised more than $330,000, far exceeding the goal of $310,075.
“We have a fabulous community, and I am confident that we are going to meet and surpass our goal of $317,000,” said United Way Effingham Area Director Bonnie Dixon.
Campaign chair Taryn Knick and other United Way volunteers and employees were decked out in Wonder Woman attire for the kickoff luncheon at the Effingham College and Career Academy. Completing the super hero theme was campaign vice chair Andy Lamon, channeling Clark Kent and Superman in a skit that followed a video shown to the audience.
United Way funding supports 24 organizations and programs that provide a variety of services in Effingham County.
“Our community is growing and the needs are growing, so this is a very important year,” Knick said.
The Effingham United Way already is nearly one-third toward its goal, thanks to two community “pacesetters” that conducted their campaigns in advance of the official kickoff. Effingham County School System employees pledged $82,436 and Georgia Power pledged $14,732.
Ebenezer Elementary received the Caring Cup as the school with the highest percentage of employee participation. Sixty-two of EES’ 97 employees, or 64 percent, pledged contributions to the campaign.
South Effingham High School earned the Chairman’s Award for having the largest increase in giving from last year, from $5,207 in pledges to $7,697. SEHS Principal Mark Winters accepted the trophy from Knick.
“Carry that to the game,” emcee Jamie Ertle joked in reference to tonight’s football game between Effingham County and South Effingham.
Knick and Dixon made light of this year’s Effingham campaign being led by a pastor and a banker. Lamon is the pastor of Gateway Community Church, and Knick is the market leader for BB&T’s Rincon and Springfield branches.
“What better combination can you have?” Knick asked rhetorically. “We pray about it and …”
“… Bring it to the bank,” Dixon finished Knick’s sentence.
For at least one person at the kickoff luncheon, the United Way of Effingham already has worked wonders.
Albert Jernigan recalled not knowing where to turn when he hit a low point. A single parent raising two children, Jernigan said he was out of work and “behind on every bill that I had.”
“I was in a bad, bad spot — probably the worst spot that I’ve been in my life,” he said.
A Rincon resident, Jernigan stopped by the United Way Effingham Service Center. He hoped the organization could help him, or at least point him in the direction of who could.
The United Way was a big help, providing gas money for his truck and gift cards for him to buy groceries. Most importantly, the United Way helped Jernigan start his own business.
He launched a mobile pressure washing and auto detailing service about a year-and-a-half ago. The United Way paid for his business license.
“A hundred dollars doesn’t like much now,” Jernigan said, “but where I was at the time, them paying that for me helped me tremendously.”
Business is good these days, Jernigan said, and financially he is “caught up on everything.” Having his own business also gives him the flexibility to spend time with his children.
“It affords me the availability to be everywhere that I need to be being a single parent,” he said.
Another of his priorities is volunteering for the United Way. In gratitude for the life-changing assistance he received, Jernigan devotes as much time as he can toward the United Way’s efforts to help people in the community.
For example, he volunteers for the annual Back-to-School Blowout in Springfield. He helps transport and unload the school supplies the United Way and other sponsors give free to local families prior to the school year.
“Sometimes they just need someone with two hands a truck – whatever help I can be,” Jernigan said. “I just try to give back for the help that they gave me.”
How to help
To schedule a campaign presentation, or for more information about the campaign or any United Way services, call the United Way Effingham Service Center at 826-5300.