The United Way of Huntington County began their 2021 Campaign with a kick-off party and Day of Caring on Friday, Sept. 17.
The event started at the GQT Huntington 7 Theater, where prominent local leaders of the United Way shared various updates regarding this year’s campaign. The campaign video for this year was also shown.
United Way Executive Director and CEO Kyle Metzger took the stage to share how the United Way is making an effort to keep the community informed on what the United Way is and what they do.
Metzger explained that a common phrase for the United Way is “funded partners.”
“These are the agencies that we receive grant applications from and that we fund to do certain activities in our communities,” Metzger said.
The agencies represented in the campaign video are the Huntington County Health Department, Pathfinder Services Kids Kampus, Blessings in a Backpack, Love INC, the Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) and YWCA of Northeast Indiana. These are just a few of the United Way of Huntington County’s funded partners.
“We are always on the lookout for ways that we can fill the gaps within the community,” Metzger said. “Every year, there’s always something new. There’s always some gap that we’re trying to fill in. Something that we’re always trying to address.”
Metzger said that a gap last year was children needing water during the school day and not being able to use the drinking fountains due to high risk of spreading COVID-19. The United Way was able to provide HCCSC schools with water bottle filling stations.
The United Way started a video series to show several different funded partners and programs they’ve been working on. Metzger says there are 20 videos altogether that will be released in the next few months. He also encouraged those in attendance to share the videos to get more community involvement.
“There’s so many ways to communicate, which means there are no good ways to communicate,” Metzger said. “So the more you can help share our message and share those videos, the better.”
One gap the United Way is trying to bridge this year involves literacy in Huntington.
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a program that provides books at no cost to children from birth to 5-years-old. Each child registered will receive a book every month in the mail during that time period. If the child is signed up from birth, that would be 60 books in total by the time they are 5-years-old.
“Current research tells us that if we don’t have children reading at and above grade level by the time they leave third grade, we may have lost them for their career,” United Way Campaign Chair Jay Peters said. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were able to fund the Dolly Parton Imagination Library so that no child would be left behind and that this would continue for years and years to come? What a legacy we would leave behind.”
Metzger said the United Way’s “original short-term goal was to raise $15,000” in order to make this program available to Huntington County for two years and they already met that goal. He also said that—now that the program is live—they have already had close to 300 children in the county sign up.
“Here’s our moment. This is our time,” Peters said. “To put our stamp on the importance of literacy in our community, we need to be bold, we need to be brave and, above all, united in this effort. We got this.”
After the presentation at the theater, community members went to either Place of Grace or Blessings in a Backpack to volunteer their time for the Day of Caring.
“I’m constantly amazed at the generosity of this community and absolutely thrilled that we can do our part today to help make our community just that much better,” Metzger said.
Though the campaign kick-off is over, workplaces can get involved by doing a campaign for the specific program they wish to support like the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. For more information, individuals are encouraged to contact the United Way office at 356-6160. The office is located at 356 W. Park Drive, Huntington.
Individuals who are interested in signing their children up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program may do so at huntingtonunitedway.org/dolly.