By MORGAN MANNS
Fostoria is full of everyday heroes.
The community has come together to support the United Way of Fostoria and its 16 partner agencies by allocating 81.6 percent of its 2019 campaign goal.
Officials announced Friday during the final campaign rally of the season they have raised $167,318.97 of the campaign’s $205,000 goal.
“The campaign is going really well. It’s really strong,” Executive Director Evelyn Marker said to start off the rally. “It’s been a strong year so far; we’ve had some really good results. There are a lot of other workplaces who we are still waiting on their final numbers but we’re in a nice place right now.”
Marker began the meeting by sharing a brief history of the United Way as a whole.
The concept of the United Way began about 130 years ago in Denver when “a priest, a rabbi, two ministers and a woman met at a downtown hotel to address a problem.” The problem: several charities in town were going around to businesses and agencies and asking for donations.
“They were fundraising all the time,” Marker said. “Their mission was to cut this down and also to identify which were the legitimate charities.”
The group decided to vet all of the agencies and those that were legitimate would do one fundraiser, one time per year and they would be done until the next year.
It had become such a good solution, there are now 1,800 United Ways in 40 countries around the world.
Fostoria’s United Way focuses on youth development, health and financial stability through its 16 partner agencies, several of which were at the rally on Friday.
Fostoria Area Habitat for Humanity officials shared updated information on the organization’s work, specifically its focus on sprucing up the neighborhood around Lynn, Cherry and Spruce streets. When they originally announced plans to build in the area, they received negative feedback from people saying they wouldn’t want to live there due to the condition of other residences.
Officials then rolled out A Brush with Kindness program, where volunteers work to revitalize homes in that neighborhood through small outdoor projects such as landscaping and painting.
While it didn’t take off running right away, word spread by community members who were helped through the program as well as by viewers of a video the organization created. The video had 5,000 views, which brought a significant amount of traffic to the organization’s Facebook page, according to representative Devin Hatter.
They plan to release another video today, geared more toward the need for volunteers and the help they can provide to these community members.
Representatives of the Fostoria Senior Citizens Center were also in attendance, telling others about how the once cliquey group has become a family where everyone comes together to play games, do crafts and look out for one another.
Camp Fire of Northwest Ohio Program Coordinator Chris Larson explained to those in attendance what the organization does, focusing on their work in Fostoria, which includes a weekly visit to the Fostoria Townhouses as well as working with students in the schools.
Camp Fire works with youth on social and emotional learning. Their focus at the Townhouses recently adapted to include culinary skills.
“While working out there we noticed that a lot of these kids were really hungry,” Larson said, noting they work with students after school on Tuesdays from 4:30-6 p.m. “You know you can’t teach kids anything when they’re hungry so we decided their learning was going to include making a meal.”
Students work on homework when they first arrive and those who don’t have any homework get to begin the cooking. They learn how to prepare simple meals such as hot dogs and macaroni and cheese or omelets as well as kitchen safety.
They then all sit down together for a meal. Larson said she plans to teach an etiquette lesson in the near future.
“They’re learning social skills and lifelong lessons,” she said.
Camp Fire also works with about 200 7th- and 8th-grade students at Fostoria City Schools six times per year, focusing on bullying, cyberbullying, communication, decision-making skills, mental health, suicide prevention and more.
She shared a story about a young lady who came up to speak with her after one of their lessons, sharing her concern for a friend who was suicidal.
“This girl was genuinely concerned for her friend and didn’t know what to do,” Larson said. “She ended up going to her friend’s parents and the girl ended up getting help. She just needed to hear and to know that she could be that friend. Her concern and actions helped saved her friend’s life.
An all-encompassing agency, First Call for Help is an information and referral service that provides an outlet for area residents to call when they need assistance. Program Coordinator Libra Martin said the service has assisted 541 needs so far this year, including rent assistance, food, transportation, shelter, domestic violence situations and more.
Martin shared stories such as a woman who had been dealing with substance abuse and mental health for more than 20 years who came in to see what kind of help she could get.
“She’s now in counseling, a member of a church and participates in positive community activities,” Martin said. “She wants to stay sober. “¦ These programs don’t just fix that problem but they improve their lives and the lives of their families as well.”
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the campaign will go toward these partner agencies as well as: St. Vincent de Paul; the American Red Cross of Hancock, Fostoria/Seneca and Wyandot Counties; Community Hospice Care; SCAT (Seneca County Agency Transportation); DayBreak SAIDO Learning Center; the Fostoria Learning Center; Girl Scouts of Western Ohio; Black Swamp Area Council Boy Scouts; the Geary Family YMCA; PatchWorks House; First Step Family Healthy Resource Center; and F.A.C.T. (Financial Assistance for Cancer).
As of Friday, the campaign breakdown included:
• Division I “” 86.7 percent of the $75,000 at $65,016.
• Division II “” 76.7 percent of the $41,500 goal at $31,430.
• Division III “” 66.8 percent of the $23,000 goal at $15,375.
• Division IV (small businesses) “” 55.8 percent of the $20,000 goal at $11,152.
• Division V (individuals) “” 97.5 percent of the $45,500 goal at $44,345.