The United Way of Allen County has set its sights on raising more than $5 million for the third consecutive year.
About 100 people – many of them sporting white Live United T-shirts – gathered for a campaign kickoff event Thursday inside the new 400 Club at Parkview Field.
Campaign Chairman Christopher Sosebee received a round of applause after announcing a fundraising goal of $5.1 million for the 2013 Community Campaign.
Just more than $5 million was raised in both 2011 and 2012, Sosebee said.
A six-year member of the board, Sosebee said he is confident the goal can be reached through funding matches, growing the workplace campaign and the efforts of more people inside and outside the workplace.
Last year, there were more than 250 workplace campaigns and 10,000 donors who made a gift to United Way.
The campaigns focus and four key issues – education, income, basic needs and health – are identical to last years, because efforts by the United Way and affiliated agencies are producing results, said Todd Stephenson, president and CEO of United Way of Allen County.
Several years ago, the number of third-grade children who could not read at grade level was 10 percent higher than it is today, Stephenson said. He attributes the increase in students reading at grade level to the efforts of the United Way and its partnering agencies.
Even though current statistics on Allen County children and teens are still disturbing, Stephenson said, the United Way is making a difference through early intervention, educational and mentoring programs and by helping families live productive and economically stable lives.
We all win when a child succeeds in school, when people have solid jobs, when families have good health and basic needs are met, he said. We all have a stake in creating a healthy and prosperous community.
Because children who receive early-childhood educational opportunities are more likely to graduate high school, earn higher wages, hold a job and commit fewer crimes as adults, United Way has two new programs to help children be prepared for school: Lets Talk and Kindergarten Countdown.
Lets Talk, a program partnering with Parkview Health, provides early awareness and education to parents of newborns through hospital birthing centers.
The Kindergarten Countdown program prepares children to enter school successfully. The four-week program partners with Community Transportation Network, East Allen County Schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools and Lutheran Health Network.
Other key initiatives of the campaign include a free tax preparation program and 211 services.
United Way supports these programs and 60 others at partner agencies.
The Robert Goldstine Foundation is again offering a matching grant for gifts to United Way.
This grant matches new or increased-leadership level gifts ($1,000 or more) to United Way.
Last year, the Goldstine Foundation grant added more than $50,000 to the Community Campaign.