By Jacob Mathias
The United Way of Portage County kicked off its 2015 campaign this year with the announcement of it’s early donation totals and a new initiative focusing on early childhood development.
The 2015 campaign goal is $2.8 million, $100,000 over last year’s goal. The kickoff event highlighted local pacesetter businesses who began fundraising early and have already raised 11 percent of the goal.
The total raised by the pacesetter businesses was $297,086. The funds raised by the campaign support 30 United Way programs focusing on education, income, health and community basics.
“When you invest in United Way, you are not only investing in the 30 programs that have made our community grow strong, but you are also investing in the future through this new initiative. After all, the future is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives,” said Sue Wilcox, executive director of the United Way of Portage County.
The pacesetter donations include:
- Delta Dental: $275,000
- Cooper Dental: $10,563
- Spectra Print: $4,676
- Midwest Hardware Association: $4,611
- Cherek, Pucci & Quick: $2,236
“We all win when a child succeeds in school, when an older parent can continue to live at home, when families have good health, and when workers have solid, consistent employment,” said United Way Board President Mark Hilliker.
The Early Years Collaborative will focus on childhood development from birth to five years old. The program is still in early stages and specific details are not yet available but the collaboration between the United Way of Portage County and local businesses and organizations including the Stevens Point Area School District, Delta Dental, UW-Stevens Point, Skyward, Sentry Insurance, Ministry Healthcare and Portage County Health and Human Services.
The program will focus on providing parents and childcare providers education, training and resources focusing on healthy babies, early childhood development, the parent/caregiver expectations, quality childcare and community awareness and engagement.
Dean Dietrich, chair of the Marathon County Early Years Coalition, a similar program to the collaborative announced by the United Way, gave a presentation touting the need for such programs.
“The early years coalition is an effort to raise the importance of those early years,” said Dietrich. “We need to pay attention to the youngest members of our community…we need to help raise kids. We need to give them what they need to be successful at an early age, at a very early age.”
“Nurturing relationships and rich learning in the early years lays the foundation for lifelong success,” said Patti Cahill, United Way of Portage County Director of Community Impact. “Since 80 percent of brain development occurs before the age of three, this programming will help children, and their caregivers, at a time when they need it most.”
Also at the kickoff celebration was a behind the scenes look at Project Fresh Start which supplies over 1,200 area youth with school supplies at the beginning of each school year. Fresh Start is held, Saturday, August 15 at Ben Franklin Junior High.
The 2015 campaign is held throughout Portage County at approximately 200 worksites, via direct mail and individual giving. Individual donations can be made at unitedwaypoco.com. Donations of $52 or more campaign will receive a coupon book and also be automatically entered into the Travel United Sweepstakes for a chance to win a 2016 vehicle donated by Scaffidi Motors or other donated prizes.
The 2015 campaign victory celebration is December 2.