By MORGAN MANNS
For the past 60 years, the United Way of Fostoria has been changing lives one at a time.
This is the theme of the organization’s 2017 campaign, which will celebrate 60 years of service to the Fostoria community.
“It’s great we’ve been able to serve the community over the past 60 years,” co-chair Wendy Foss said during a press conference Monday.
“It’s a testament to the community and its leaders and its volunteers who have kept the United Way going,” Executive Director Evelyn Marker added. “The United Way itself has had a lot of growth over the years.”
In addition to allocating campaign funds and adding services such as community development, grant opportunities and First Call for Help, the organization has deepened its research into what each of its agencies does to ensure monies collected during the campaign season go toward what is advertised.
“The (Budget & Admissions) Committee looks at what services each agency provides to be more particular about who we’re helping,” Marker said. “We feel good that the money is used for specific services to better the community and that the money we ask for is going where we say it’s going.”
The campaign kickoff rally is slated for 4-6 p.m. Thursday at the United Way office, 105 S. Main St.
For the second year in a row, the kickoff will focus on the businesses who donate to the campaign. Previously hosted at the Geary Family YMCA, the event would include music by area high school bands and games for elementary students. While officials said this approach worked, they decided to cater more to Fostoria’s business leaders as they are the ones who support the United Way and its mission.
“We were searching for some way to promote our campaign and thank community leaders and recognize them for all they do for our campaign,” co-chair Mike Foss said.
Wine, hors d’oeuvres and light refreshments will be available during the kickoff event. In honor of the organization’s 60th anniversary, 1957 attire is optional.
The goal for this year’s campaign is $195,000, the same as 2016 when the campaign fell about 5 percent short. The United Way ended its 2016 campaign with a total of $186,868 to allocate to its partner agencies.
“Although we didn’t reach it last year, we raised more than the year before and it was enough to cover our allocations,” Marker said, noting the 2015 campaign garnered $186,525. “We always anticipate additional monies and strive high with our goals.”
The Budgets & Admission Committee receives a preliminary request from all of the agencies so the goal takes into consideration what they ask for as well as what is reasonable to expect from the community.
The goal, according to Marker, also reflects the funds requested by the United Way’s three new agencies.
For the first time since 2001, the organization increased its outreach and accepted three new partner agencies in May — St. Vincent de Paul, Financial Assistance for Cancer (F.A.C.T.) and the Fostoria Learning Center.
“They are very good causes and we’re excited to be able to work with them,” Foss said, adding, “We feel it is an attainable goal based on last year and reports from businesses. We’re optimistic the goal is an achievable one.”
The other 12 partner agencies include Fostoria Area Habitat for Humanity; Fostoria Senior Citizens Center; Black Swamp Area Council Boy Scouts; the Geary Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Western Ohio; Camp Fire Northwest Ohio; First Step Healthy Family Resource Center; PatchWorks House; the American Red Cross of Hancock, Fostoria/Seneca and Wyandot counties; Community Hospice Care; SCAT (Seneca County Agency Transportation) and DayBreak of Fostoria.
“Thanks to the Geary Foundation, we have no administrator fees and 100 percent of the allocations go back to the community,” Marker said. “We’ve had 60 years of this and it’s amazing.”
Division goals this year are as follows: $82,525 for Division I; $44,300 for Division II; $22,175 for Division III; $12,000 for Division IV; and $34,000 for Division V.
Pacesetters this year include Reineke Ford Family Dealership, St. Catherine’s Manor and Fostoria City Schools.
To boast garnered funds, the United Way will again host a Bob Evans fundraiser. The date is yet to be determined; however, when the date is set, community members can pick up a flier and present it at checkout to ensure a portion of their purchase at the local eatery is donated to the United Way.
In addition, the campaign is selling Wendy’s key chain tabs for $1. The tabs may be used at participating Wendy’s locations (including Fostoria) to receive one free Jr. Frosty, valid with any purchase through Dec. 31.
The campaign cabinet includes Foss and his wife, Wendy, campaign co-chairs; Mandi Ball and Tom Borer, Division I co-chairs; Sandy Hatfield and Tim Tiell, Division II co-chairs; Robin Bates, Division III chair; Matt Green, Divisions IV and V chair; Frank Kinn, leadership chair; and Scott Scherf, publicity chair.
“We’re really happy to have the campaign committee we have,” Marker said. “We have a very loyal and dedicated group who bring a lot of knowledge and history to the United Way. We’re very lucky.”
Campaign rallies are scheduled for noon Oct. 19 and 26 and Nov. 2 and 9 at the Geary Family YMCA Annex. Pledge forms and contributions must be submitted by Nov. 15.
An annual awards event will take place in February. This event recognizes area businesses that met or surpassed their respective goals as well as employee participation.
“It says something about our community that we can hit our goal every year and put this much money back into the community,” Foss said.
For more information, call the United Way office at 419-435-4484, visit http://www.unitedwayoffostoria.org/ or visit the United Way of Fostoria’s Facebook page.