BOTKINS — Shelby County’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library program was honored by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted during Thursday’s United Way campaign kickoff luncheon at the Palazzo. And during the event, the campaign theme — United for Change — and its goal — $1,340,000 — was announced.
The proclamation, read by Mary Sabin, senior adviser, Ohio governor’s Office for Imagination Library, touted the county’s nearly 70 percent sign-up rate for children aged birth to five years old. Each child who is enrolled in the program receives a book once a month until they turn five.
The first book they receive is “The Little Engine that Could” and the final book is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!”
“Your numbers here in Shelby County are awesome,” said Sabin.
DeWine, said Sabin, has earmarked $5 million in the state’s two-year budget for an Imagination Library to be formed in every county in Ohio.
“We’ve been official for one month,” said Sabin. “And we had heard Suzanne Cline’s (Shelby County Libraries executive director) name throughout the state.
The county currently has 2,390 children enrolled in the program. There are 3,533 children eligible to receive books monthly. Sabin said the county is neck-in-neck with enrollment with Warren County.
“You need to work with your neighbor to the north — Auglaize County — to get the program there.
Statistics, she said, shows the younger a child is read to or begins to ready, the more successful they will be when they enter school.
Existing programs, said Sabin, will receive matching funds from the state budget to grow the program.
Scott Barr, United Way executive director, said the program would not be as successful as it is without business, organization and community support. Wilson Health registers each child born at the hospital for the program.
Withe the campaign officially underway, Barr said the goal is the same as last year’s which was surpassed by donors. The campaign ends with a luncheon on Nov. 7 at the Sidney American Legion.
Adam Koenig, Board of Trustees chair, said the county has been able to maintain a $1 million-plus campaign since 1998.
“To sustain a campaign like that takes a united effort,” said Koenig. “We are blessed with a rich legacy which is reflected by the past leaders.”
Koenig recognized past campaign chairs, past board presidents, partner agency directors and board members, POWER advisory board and members, Student United Way members, United Way staff and events and activities committee members.
Champaign Chair Dean Weinert, Mutual Federal president, shared his experiences with United Way when he was working at a bank in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“It never ceases to amaze me on how many people are involved in the campaign,” said Weinert. “The bank I worked for in Fort Wayne; rented out the Memorial Coliseum just for the bank employees to have our own campaign kickoff dinner. The department heads did skits o the theme of the United Way campaign.
“United Way is important in the community we work and do business in.”
Mutual Federal, he said, has had 100 percent participation among its employees for many years.
All Shelby county residents are touched in some way by the United Way and its partner agencies.
Barr told the audience that in 2018, 175 companies, school districts and nonprofit agencies participated in the campaign. there were 4,200 unique donors who raised more than $1,386,000 in the 2018 campaign.
“We are supporting real people, every day of the year,” said Barr.
A pacesetters campaign was held in August with more than 30 companies and organizations donating $215,500 to kick the campaign off.
“This is an all time record,” said Barr. “It surpassed the previous amount by $50,000.”
Some 2018 United Way highlights include:
• Student United Way awarded $10,000 in grants.
• POWER awarded $25,000 in grants to agencies and school districts.
• The board awarded $15,000 to the Lake Loramie Improvement Association to complete the ADA compliant park equipment project.
• Awarded $0,000 for the inclusive community park which is being built at Tawawa Park.
• Awarded $18,000, plus an additional $2,000 from POWER, to Wilson Health for its 3D mammography purchase.
Also taking at the luncheon were Shannon Byers, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office STAR House director, and Julie Deacon, Consumer Credit Counseling executive director.
Byers said the STAR House accepted its first resident on May 28. All residents must complete four phases of the STAR House program. The phases take between four months and one year to complete.
Each person has a job before they are accepted at the STAR House. Two of the residents have obtained their driver’s licenses since moving into STAR House. All of them are in counseling for substance abuse and mental health.
“None of the residents are on Medicaid or food stamps,” said Byers. “They all have jobs so they have insurance through the company they work for.”
Each person is learning to budget their income, which includes setting up a savings account. Each resident pays $50 rent each week to live at the STAR House.
Deacon talked about the importance of living within a monthly budget and how her agency can assist Shelby County residents.