Itawamba United Way funds dispersed to local charities

By MICHAEL UPTON
Staff Writer

More than $21,000 in Itawamba County United Way funds have been dispersed to 18 local agencies that are either within the county or serve residents here.

Groups that received the largest portions of Itawamba County's United Way money include the Fulton Food Pantry, $5,084; the Itawamba County Salvation Army, $3,000; and Lift, Inc., $2,000. Seven groups received donations in the amount of $1,000, and eight others received smaller donations.

“Some of the money went to agencies that serve Itawamba County residents but are not in the county itself,” said Melinda Tidwell, executive director for United Way of Northeast Mississippi.

One example is Regional Rehabilitation, which is in Tupelo but serves a large number of Itawambians.

In 2003, United Way givings for Itawamba County totaled $28,920. After that, debt pledge loss and administrative costs totaling $8,016 were subtracted for a net total of $21,034 for Itawamba County.

A group of local United Way volunteers then got together and decided how the money would be distributed.

“The local volunteers are the ones who made the decisions about where the money would go,” Tidwell said.

The group received information on each agency that was eligible to receive United Way funds. They were also invited to make site visits to each agency to see how each operated and how the money would be spent.

The local decision-making was part of an overall change this year in the way that United Way of Northeast Mississippi collects and distributes its funds. Donors now have the option of specifying which county they want their money to benefit.

That meant that people who live in Itawamba County but work elsewhere had the option of marking on their pledge cards that their money would be directed back to Itawamba.

As a result of the new system, a larger number of agencies in Northeast Mississippi were able to receive a portion of the $1.6 million raised areawide. The number of benefiting agencies rose from 38 to 45.