Part 3 of United Way series: All about people coming together

Sonny Long

Aug. 24, 2012 at 3:24 a.m.
Updated Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:25 a.m.

In the third and final part of the Advocate's series about the 65th anniversary of the United Way in Victoria County, the agency's executive director Clifford Grimes discusses the history, mission and operation of the United Way.

Grimes, a native Texan, has been at the helm of the organization in Victoria County since May 2009.

After the 2011-12 campaign, 17 agencies were awarded grants totaling more than $620,000. An estimated 50,000 people from Victoria and surrounding counties are expected to be aided by the agencies funded by the Victoria County United Way.

You have worked in the nonprofit arena for more than 30 years, many of that with the United Way, and studied the history of the United Way, both nationally and locally. What has changed and what has stayed the same?

This is the 125th year of of the United Way nationwide and 65th in Victoria. No. 1, people are the heart and essence of the United Way. Working not only with volunteers, but also the staff and volunteers of each of the partners that we fund continues to be the strength of the United Way. No. 2, volunteer leadership. No. 3, the ability of folks to come together as one to address challenges and concerns that are bigger than you and I. Working together to solve those issues. Those have remained the same over the years. It's all about people coming together and helping each other out.

Fundraising, however, has changed. I was going through the old newspaper articles and back in the 1940s it used to be a door-to-door campaign. Now it's payroll deduction.

Our look has also changed. We used to be known as Red Feather, then Community Chest. Now, we're the United Way. But our message has remained the same, come together as a community to help each other out.

Expound on fundraising, and the types of fundraising there are.

This United Way uses a multi-prong approach to fundraising. We do have some special events and we have sponsorships for those. Our Day of Caring this year, we'll be laying sod, planting trees, and that takes money. Our sponsors provide the resources for that. That does not come out of our operating budget. There are also corporate gifts. In the 2011 campaign that just wrapped up, we received more than $240,000 in corporate gifts. Those are gifts from businesses, usually matching their employee gifts. Employee giving continues to be the mainstay of United Way. Out of the more than $900,000 raised in 2011, about $640,000 came from employees. More than 60 percent comes from individual employees. There are also retirees, no longer in the workforce, who choose to continue to write a check to the United Way.

Talk a little bit more about how volunteers are the backbone of the United Way.

For our United Way, we have a board of directors of 21 and an executive committee of 11. We really value their intellect, their ability to help us solve problems and identify solutions. A good example of that is when we did our strategic plan late last year. We knew we needed to grow our campaign and not just rely on our top 26 companies, but to grow the base. We developed a plan moving forward on how to do that.

Tell me about the Day of Caring and how that came about.

Our board of directors decided about three years ago, instead of a sit-down luncheon, keynote speaker and pep rally to kick off a campaign, to get our hands dirty. Rally our community by doing something positive. This is our third year. The first year we were at the Boys & Girls Club, last year at Victoria Christian Assistance Ministries and this year we'll be at the new Mid-Coast Family Services women's shelter on Thursday. We'll be doing some landscaping, putting in trees, bushes, sodding the entire backyard, putting up wire mesh for the kennels. It's mainly giving our volunteers an opportunity to do something. To give back. It's a great way to kick off our campaign.

You mentioned corporate giving earlier, I understand Caterpillar has stepped up and joined in that giving.

We're very pleased. At the Caterpillar grand opening on Thursday, United Way was presented a check for $25,000. We're grateful to Caterpillar, the Caterpillar Foundation and Caterpillar employees for making this possible.



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