The confetti cannons fired as the numbers were turned over Wednesday morning, just as they had two months ago when the United Way of Effingham County revealed its annual campaign goal.
United Way staff and board members celebrated their total raised, $340,750, with still two days left to count. The figure is 105 percent of their target, which was set at $325,000. Both numbers are record highs for the United Way of Effingham County.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” said United Way executive director Bonnie Dixon of the campaign result. “I can’t even describe it. It’s beyond words. I had expectations it was going to be a great year. This has surpassed anything I could have ever imagined.”
The United Way’s support in the community, evidenced through another campaign goal being exceeded, is like a revolving wheel, Dixon said.
“The more we know about the community, the more we know the community needs, the more we develop programs and services, the more we need volunteers,” she said. “All of that is education to the community about what United Way does. They understand that to have all this, it needs to be supported financially.”
Georgia-Pacific provided two loaned associates, Stephen Roddenberry and Sheila Patterson, and also fueled the campaign drive. Georgia-Pacific employees provided more than $190,000. The total is the most the mill has given in the United Way of Effingham County’s history.
“And we expect them to top that,” Dixon said. “That’s just huge. It’s just outstanding. It’s encouraging to know we have that partnership with them and we can lean on them and they understand and support. Call it magic, call it whatever. It is amazing.”
Between them, Roddenberry and Patterson logged 2,500 miles, crossing the county to talk about United Way and cajole pledges from businesses and groups.
“It really is an honor and it is a lot of hard work,” Roddenberry said. “There are certainly challenges. But the work is so worth it when you see the organizations that receive these funds and do such great work with it. It really makes every effort that goes into it worth it.”
The campaign kicked off in September, but the drive’s pacesetters — Georgia Power and the Effingham County Board of Education — got started in July. Georgia Power raised more than $18,600, a 12 percent increase in its pledges.
Other pledge totals include: $15,134 from Effingham Health System, more than $7,000 from Rincon Kroger $6,052 from Effingham County government, $4,261 from the three cities and $3,656 from Rincon Walmart.
The $325,000 goal was set in part to commemorate the United Way of Effingham County’s 25 years of existence. What makes the agency work is the efforts of many, according to Dixon, be it reaching the campaign goal or providing services and programs to Effingham County residents.
“It’s all a collaborative,” she said. “United Way serves as the conduit between the need and the community programs and the organizations that want to be a part of it, including the volunteers. We all work together as a team and there has to be somebody who leads the effort. That’s our forte that we can bring to the table and making sure we include all the partners in the community. I think that’s where Effingham has its success as a community in that no one entity tries to be the highlight of any program or service. Instead, we always try to refer to the collaborative to make it happen. United Way, in addition to being the conduit, is the funder. We work for those dollars that are raised and greatly appreciate it.”