EDITORIAL: Over the top

United Way of Northeast Mississippi, which budgeted conservatively in a recession economy, celebrated Thursday morning going over the top in its 2009-2010 campaign: $2.17 million raised or pledged on a goal of $2.1 million.
The total is expected to rise before the books close on this year’s effort for the seven-county service area: Lee, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Prentiss, Tishomingo, Union and Pontotoc counties, with 61 agencies certified to receive partial financial support.
United Way’s decision to become a regional agency paid off in exceeding the campaign goal. A commitment from Houston-based Franklin Industries’ payroll deduction and corporate gift pushed the total over the top.
Every contribution holds heightened importance for the 2010 budget year because requests from agencies for support have risen 38 percent over 2009, a direct result of increasing service needs related to job losses and individual family situations, plus declines in support from other sources.
BancorpSouth Chairman Aubrey Patterson, who headed corporate giving in this year’s campaign, summarized the situation in a widely circulated letter to potential donors:
“Looking back through the years, it is easy to see how Northeast Mississippians have pulled together to meet local needs – whether it’s coming to the aid of Hurricane Katrina disaster victims or fellow citizens rallying to get a community on its feet again after a tornado strikes. The economic struggles our neighbors are experiencing today are no different.”
Patterson cited the spiraling need for replenishing community food pantries used by families who never before have needed to ask and because of record numbers of the temporarily homeless seeking shelter from organizations like the Salvation Army.
“United Way of Northeast Mississippi does what no other organization can, by coordinating the collective strength of more than 20,000 individual donors, 300 local businesses, 61 non-profit partners, and a vast array of community resources. … One of United Way’s greatest strengths is the care it takes with (contributions). United Way is a volunteer-driven organization. From setting policy, fund raising, assessing community needs and reviewing agencies to distributing the money raised – local volunteers help keep United Way efficient and effective.”
Campaign Chairman Chauncey Godwin Jr. said at Thursday’s celebration that Mississippians’ record of generosity in proportion to income and need was borne out in the campaign’s success.
The United Way in Northeast Mississippi, founded in 1961, is approaching the half-century mark of service. Its scope and reach have expanded with the region’s growth. Rather than one town it embraces many communities and the diversity of the non-profits in them, finding strength working together.

NEMS Daily Journal