For the United Way of Lowndes County — which has weathered many storms in more than 50 years of service — the current economic downturn has meant less giving in a time of more need.
The 2009 fundraising campaign concluded in February, falling short of a $600,000 goal, said Executive Director Jan Ballard, who noted the decrease was “anticipated due to layoffs” in the community.
As a result, funds were cut to agencies served by the United Way.
“We were tightening our belts, although we already operate on tight budgets and are very conscious of our contributors and the funds they donate,” she explained. “As a result of permanent and temporary layoffs, our campaign concluded at $504,000. (But) we did have some very significant campaigns that were very successful. The Columbus Municipal School District is an example. And we had corporate support from some of our new industries that will be a part of (regular) employee campaigns, once our economy improves.
“We”ve had significant changes in our economy in Lowndes County,” she continued. “The community rallied around us and has continued its support over the years, because people understand the importance of United Way funding to programs and services our community could not do without.”
The United Way of Lowndes County currently is celebrating its 55th year of service.
“All along, regardless of how our economy has gone, our community has continued to give to United Way and to support the work of our agencies,” Ballard said of the organization”s history. “We have been a part of our community through all kinds of economic booms and when the economy has taken a downturn. We”ve survived because of the support of the community.”
The United Way and the agencies it serves still are in need of community support.
“We encourage contributions, particularly at a time when our agencies are seeing more individuals and families who have been affected by the economy, (including) people who have worked consistently and contributed to our community, who are asking for help for the first time,” Ballard said. “In addition, United Way funds organizations that serve our elderly community in ways that their families or neighbors are not able to do so. And we support organizations that contribute to helping our youth mature into good citizens, who give back to the community and contribute to our society.”
“Although the United Way has been one of those agencies that steps up to the plate prior to the economic downturn, with things the way they are now, it is of great importance, even in these kind of times, that we contribute what we can to help those who are in need,” said Dennis Erby, who recently was appointed as the United Way of Lowndes County”s first black president.
The following agencies are served by the United Way of Lowndes County: the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club, the Boy Scouts (Pushmataha Council), the Columbus Air Force Base Youth Center, Community Resource Center, CONTACT Helpline, Dial-A-Bus, The 4-H Clubs of Lowndes County, The Girl Scouts of Northeast Mississippi, the Greater Columbus Learning Center, Helping Hands, Home Delivered Meals, Recovery House, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, The Salvation Army and the YMCA.
Additionally, the United Way of Lowndes County also serves the following community outreach programs: disaster relief assistance, affordable transportation for low-income residents, home repair for low-income residents, annual food banks, blood drives, fan drives and blanket drives, an emergency food shelter and a community soup kitchen.
To contribute to the United Way, contact Ballard at 662-328-0943.