Rotarians hear about United Way

SIDNEY — Shelby County United Way Executive Director Scott Barr was the featured speaker ata recent meeting of the Sidney Rotary Club.

Barr began his presentation by airing this year’s United Way video. He noted that the local United Way currently supports 29 agencies and, last year, provided funding for 22 special projects.

Barr then addressed a number of myths that are shared on social media that contain inaccurate and false information on why a donor should or should not support the United Way.

“There are many claims, especially this time of year, that simply are not true,” Barr stated. “One of those is that the United Way is an international organization with no local control or oversight. There are just under 1,800 local United Way organizations in the world, with 1,200 in the United States. Each organization has its own separate (tax exempt) designation from the Internal Revenue Service. Each organization has a local board of directors, hires its own executive director, sets its own budget, identifies and implements new community-wide initiatives and funds local organizations driving impact in their respective communities.”

Barr also addressed the percentage of money that stays in the local community.

“Every year, there are claims that only a small percentage of the funds raised locally stays in the community. Every year, 99 percent of the money raised in Shelby County stays in Shelby County. Approximately 1 percent goes to United Way Worldwide for brand licensing and ongoing support.

“Local agencies are awarded monies annually and receive quarterly allocations throughout the year,” Barr continued. “Just last week, a quarterly allocation of $238,249.50 was direct-deposited to 28 different local agencies.

“Another rumor that annually circulates is that Shelby County United Way funds Planned Parenthood. Shelby County United Way has never funded Planned Parenthood. We fund local organizations delivering impact services for Shelby County residents. We live in a conservative community, and our board of directors properly reflects the community. We fund the best organizations and hold them accountable for the funds they receive, from local nonprofit organizations and the library, to faith-based organizations and law enforcement. Our programming is local and impactful.”

Barr spoke about specific programs and talked about the impact that the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has had within Shelby County.

“Seven out of every 10 kids eligible for the program are enrolled,” Barr stated. “We believe that program is having a tremendous, lasting impact on the future of our community.”

Barr also spoke about the Student United Way that was established last year.

“We had two students, one junior and one senior from each school, who participated. They were given $5,000 and were allowed to allocate the funds to organizations they believed were making an impact. They looked at three areas: hunger, substance abuse-prevention, and mental health and counseling. Ten programs presented grant applications; seven were funded. The students had the opportunity to interview the applicants and ask questions. It was real-world experience for them. We were so impressed with the results that this year, the board has provided them with $10,000 in grant funding to distribute.”

Barr reviewed the various organizations who had participated in a Day of Action this year and the impact they had made. He cited Day of Action as an example of a program that has grown and impacts all kinds of organizations, even those not affiliated with the United Way.

Barr cited the tremendous need that some organizations continue to have.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters currently has 20 children who are looking for a match,” Barr stated. “Another program that has a tremendous need is CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Still another is Empowered – a program that provides kindergarten tutoring. They could easily use 20 more volunteers.”

Rotary Vice President Wayne Thompson conducted the meeting. He congratulated the Sidney Rotarians who along with him, had participated in the Bad Art by Good People fundraiser, including John Bertsch, Duane Gaier, Deb Geuy, Cam Haller, and Ashley Himes. He noted that more than $9,000 had been raised for New Choices, with the remainder of the $28,000 raised going to the Gateway Arts Council.

Rotarian Duane Gaier noted that Rotarians would be working on Bertsch Hill in Tawawa Park, Nov. 10, as part of Sidney Parks and Recreation’s Adopt-a-Park Program. In addition to other duties, Rotarians will be working to remove invasive honeysuckle from the area.

It was also reported that the effort to raise funds for the inclusive playground was going well. Gaier reported that thus far, more than $152,000 has been raised for the area, which will be located adjacent to Geib Pavilion in Tawawa Park.