United Way tops $2.1M campaign goal

TUPELO – The United Way of Northeast Mississippi has exceeded its $2.1 million campaign goal, officials announced Thursday morning.
Chauncey Godwin, this year’s campaign chairman, said the group reached the goal a week ago today.
As of Thursday, the United Way has $2.17 million in pledges and expects more to trickle in during the remaining two weeks of the year. The campaign officially wraps up at the end of February.
“No matter what’s going on in our community or the nation, the people of Northeast Mississippi are some of the most generous, most compassionate people in the country,” Godwin said.
“Where Mississippi may be counted at the bottom of many lists, we are consistently at the top of the list in charitable giving.”
Melinda Tidwell, executive director of the organization, said the extra money will be divided among the 61 health and human services agencies supported by the United Way in Lee, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tishomingo and Union counties.
The goal is the same as last year, but in this economy, Godwin said, “I think it was a very aggressive goal.”
“This was a tough year, tough economy,” he said.
Tidwell said the down economy has led more people to rely on help from the agencies, which include several food pantries, The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Meals on Wheels.
The groups have requested 38 percent more money than last year, according to Shelia McCool, United Way’s director of finance and funds distribution. Meanwhile, the United Way has the same amount to allocate, she said.
Tidwell said the allocation process already has started and agencies will get their first payments in March.
“We sincerely appreciate everything the donors have given and everything the volunteers have done,” she said.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal