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United Way kicks off annual campaign

Organization has goal to raise $300K

 

With autumn comes the kickoff to the United Way of Freeborn County’s annual campaign.

This year’s campaign theme is “United Together, Freeborn Together.” It is meant to be a celebration of United Way and its partner agencies’ impact in the community by serving as or supporting frontline workers, according to Erin Haag, executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.

In past years the organization has given presentations to area businesses and organizations to promote campaign donations. Those presentations will still be given this year, but will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Haag said the organization has amplified its online and print presence through updating its website and social media channels more regularly as well as mailing out fliers and writing regular columns.

United Way uses its annual campaign to support a number of different programs and causes. Haag said in 2020, Senior Resources of Freeborn County ran programs that provided seniors with rides, chore services and advocacy work. Semcac provided meals for seniors, operated a homeless shelter and provided outreach for energy assistance and prevention programs. Freeborn County Public Health ran the Healthy Families programs, and agencies such as the Albert Lea Family Y and the LIFE Center of Freeborn County pivoted to meet challenging times by investing in technology to adapt.

“UWFC funds these programs as well as provides support in various ways,” she said.

In addition to hosting a community investment committee, Haag said the Local United Way also plays a large role in helping nonprofits remain sustainable. She said plans for developing a nonprofit resource center and expanding on the organization’s volunteer center are underway. The two centers will serve as a central place for the work done in Freeborn County, to empower agencies to increase capacity, serve a new need or make adjustments to a current program to increase efficiency.

“At times, it’s difficult to be specific about our future plans. With multiple agencies involved, major plans are under discussion for a variety of programs being developed, and they’re not ready for a public announcement,” Haag said. “However, I can say that we’re looking to address the issue of grocery delivery for seniors who face the barriers of transportation and technology. This summer, we made huge strides in the area of food access, but we want to expand that work beyond the initial pandemic response.”

United Way of Freeborn County also administers the emergency food and shelter program, providing federal funds to agencies such as Alden Area Food Shelf, Ecumenical Food Shelf, the Salvation Army and the Loaves and Fishes program.

“The 2020 campaign is a critical one. This year, some of our agencies saw nearly double the amount of need,” Haag said. “State and federal funding as well as private foundation grants quickly stepped up to help address the funding gap. However, many of these funds will be depleted. UWFC is seeking to address the need to help support our agencies for the latter half of 2021 and throughout 2022.”

The campaign runs through Dec. 31, and has the goal of raising $300,000.

“The opportunities for giving (are) infinite. Monetary donations are important, but participation is just as critical,” Haag said. “The gift of time, talent, in-kind donations are equally appreciated.”

She said a small business approached her recently and said it could do an employee campaign, but knew its employees were struggling. Instead, the business offered “the gift of their product,” Haag said, which the United Way was able to use for a project.

“Other businesses offer the gift of time. Many in our workforce would like to volunteer, but are unable to do so due to work constraints,” Haag said. “One area business offered to allow staff to come volunteer without having to use their PTO. That donation of service hours for events is what makes things like our popup pantries and winter gear drive possible.”

Those interested in more information, donating or volunteering can reach the United Way of Freeborn County at 507-373-8670.

 

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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