“The closest we came to that before was in 2007, before the economy slowed down,” Executive Director Kathy Sukanek told the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors on Monday. “That’s also when Whirlpool was open here and raising $80,000.”
The record giving, she said, was “a tribute to this community.”
Sukanek also outlined a shift in United Way’s approach to community needs, moving away from its historic agency-based focus of simply being the fundraising umbrella organization for community programs.
“We’ve got to start getting at where the problems are,” she said. “Education, health and income are the three building blocks that we’re focusing on.”
One new emphasis is the “Excel by 5” program, which works through childcare centers/preschools to more effectively prepare children for schoolwork before they reach kindergarten age.
“Seventy percent of our children are in daycare in Lafayette County, and daycares are not certified on any curriculum; they’re certified on health and safety,” Sukanek said. By meeting Excel by 5 guidelines, she added, “The daycare centers can have a lot of resources that they otherwise could not have.”
United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County’s 16 partner agencies won’t be ignored. Funding will still be a major part of the group’s work, but UWOLC will offer special incentives for innovation and long-lasting change, such as the $5,000 grants it made last year to Interfaith Compassion Ministry and Doors of Hope to promote mentoring, financial management, budgeting and educational and employment assistance for disadvantaged clients. Leap Frog and the Boys & Girls Club were given $5,000 each to boost the number of children reading at grade level by fourth grade.