However, there had never been a Polk County campaign that completely mirrored the United Way campaign until this year. For the 2013 campaign (funds to be distributed in 2014), a true Polk County campaign was developed.
Four nonprofit entities in Polk County are now the recipients of these funds designated specifically for that county. They include the Copper Basin Healthcare Foundation, the Benton Lions Club, the Polk County Imagination Library and the Boys & Girls Club of Benton.
“We are pleased to be able to increase our support and services in Polk County through a specific campaign there,” said United Way of Bradley County’s President and CEO Matt Ryerson. “While we have always provided services to Polk County residents through our funded partners such as the Red Cross, Boy and Girl Scouts, and our Polk County Emergency Aid program, we now have this campaign that mirrors our entire United Way campaign.”
Those involved in the United Way campaign wishing to designate to the Polk County campaign were able to do so, but this year, a concentrated effort to enlist pledges within the county to provide services in the county was successfully conducted.
“Our pledges for Polk County actually tripled what was raised there in the last campaign,” Ryerson said, “and we are hoping that this will continue to grow in the future.”
As with the United Way of Bradley County campaign, a fund distribution panel was developed specifically to allocate monies to these Polk County partners. The committee was chaired by Chris Newton, and included members John Miles, Jerry Stephens, Gina Burchfiel, Doug Collins, Sonya Standridge and Bill Moats, all Polk County residents.
Moats is the newest member of the United Way board of directors, and was the only member added for a three-year term beginning this year.
“There have been times that residents in Polk County may have felt forgotten by the United Way, so I appreciate this effort to bridge the gap and let Polk County folks know that their donations stay in Polk County, and help their friends, families and neighbors here,” Newton said.
Newton said that the campaign began with Ryerson meeting with Polk County School employees at Copper Basin High School, during in-service, in the fall. Since that time, United Way volunteers have stressed that while donations help in this community, specific donations can be made for this Polk County campaign.
United Way funds will go toward helping residents throughout the county, as both east and west Polk non-profit entities are recipients. Each is very appreciative of the funds they received, and of United Way conducting this special part of the campaign.
“Of course, the Lions Club is about sight preservation,” said Benton Lions Club representative Greg Swyers. “And, we have started to become even more community minded, so we just started a clothes closet up at Polk County High School where we will supply children who are in need with clothing and hygiene supplies.
“Money like this from the United Way will go a long way to help us to provide the programs that we do have,” Swyers said. The funds will help in the purchase of clothing to provide to those in need, he added.
Jenny Rogers with the Imagination Library said that the funds will help provide books to those up to the age of five enrolled in the program.
“Early childhood education is vital, and I think even more so in rural areas,” she said, “so we feel very fortunate to have this money to help buy these books. They make a big difference in a child’s life.”
Making a difference in a child’s life is also the focus of the Boys & Girls Club of Benton. The funds from the United Way’s Polk County campaign will help expand the club programs.
“We are almost at 100 percent grant funded, so year to year, you are never sure of what you are going to have,” said Club Director Cindy Hooker. “So any extra funds that we can use toward our programming is so beneficial and helps support what we are trying to do for our kids.”
Keith Ballew of the Copper Basin Healthcare Foundation said that the money the foundation received will help tremendously. He said that a portion of the funds will go toward providing scholarships for those wishing to get into the health care field or those already working in health care in that area.
Another part of the funds will go toward a backpack school event and lab program.
“We offer reduced labs twice a year at Copper Basin (Medical Center), at the end of October and in February,” explained Copper Basin Medical Center’s Julie Queen.
“At the school event, we offer free backpacks with free school supplies, and we have had as many as 600 kids come through,” she added. “The kids are so excited to get their school supplies.”
Moats said he was very excited about the interest in Polk County by the United Way, and was proud to become a member of the United Way board of directors
“We are glad to be able to work with our friends here, and hope that these donations will grow in the future and what we see today is the first of many initiatives and partnerships between United Way and Polk County,” Ryerson added.