By BECKY KISER
The 2019 fundraising campaign for the United Way of Ellis County is off and running.
A kickoff luncheon Friday afternoon with the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce and Eagle Communications at the Rose Garden Banquet Hall featured a quick game of “3 Truths and 1 Lie.” Representatives of the 17 United Way partner agencies tried to stump a panel of four volunteers with one incorrect statement about their non-profit group and its work for Ellis County residents.
The panel did well, knowing most of the history of the agencies and their community support.
Kelly Lewis, 2019 Campaign Chair, has served on the United Way Board of Directors for three years. She joked that she missed just one meeting this spring, and that’s how she became campaign chair.
“It’s a title that I’m honored to accept,” Lewis told the audience.
“This year our campaign goal is $400,000 and I have no doubt that with a little hard work, we’ll be able to hit that goal.
“We have 17 partner agencies providing Ellis County with all these wonderful opportunities that wouldn’t be available without all your kindhearted donations.”
Lewis, vice-president of Bank of Hays, has also been a volunteer on the CARE Council. “It’s a way to find out a little bit more about each of our partner agencies.”
Each group goes through an extensive funding request process with the CARE Council. Its recommendations are sent to the United Way Board of Directors which awards the funds to the select agencies.
A search is underway for a new executive director of the United Way of Ellis County.
Sherry Dryden will step down Sept. 6 after four years to become executive director of the American Red Cross serving central and western Kansas. Erica Berges, United Way administrative assistant, will serve as interim executive director.
Dryden spoke briefly at the lunch, saying it had been “an honor to serve the United Way.” She added she will continue working with the United Way through the Red Cross which is one of its partner agencies.
Dryden turned the microphone over to Berges, who talked about four major accomplishments of the United Way in 2018.
“We have a new downloadable app for Ellis County Resource,” Berges reported. ” This helped expand the access of our Ellis County Resource Directory, which was in paper form and is still online at www.elliscountykshelp.com.”
RealityU held in the spring on the campus of Thomas More Prep-Marian school brought a little bit of life’s realities into focus for Ellis County high school students.
“It taught them about personal finance in an interactive and engaging way.” The students imagined themselves to be 26 years old and completed a lifestyle questionnaire about their occupation, marital status and use of credit cards, and then found out what their monthly expenses would be.
“It was very interesting to watch the students watch their monthly income go down,”Berges said with a smile. “The number one thing they found out is expensive – kids,” she laughed along with the audience.
TMP, Ellis, Victoria and Hays high schools will participate in RealityU this fall.
More than 100 volunteers have already signed up and Berges can vouch for the program’s success.
“These brochures at your tables, we have to stuff each one of them individually with the pledge cards. Within 10 minutes of the task being on the website, I had a response. This guy came in and stuffed all 5,000 of those for us over the course of a week. It was awesome. It saved us so much time.
“We probably have a volunteer for life. He’s already responded to several other things.”
Berges also talked about the Wonder Women League.
“Since they’ve started, they’ve done the learning trail in Sunrise Park and last fall they held a self-defense course for women. Their newest project, “Matthew’s Gift,” was launched this winter.
“It’s a bag given out to families who are having a loved one flown out of Hays Med to another medical facility,” Berges said. “The bag contains items like snacks, bottled water, notepads, toiletries, a gas card and other essentials that a family might need so they don’t have to leave their loved one while in the hospital.”
- American Red Cross
- ARC of Central Plains
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters
- Cancer Council
- Catholic Charities
- Center for Life Experience
- Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation
- Court Appointed Special Advocates
- Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas
- Early Childhood Connections
- First Call For Help
- Hays Area Children’s Center
- KVC Wheatland
- Parents and Children Together
- Western Kansas Association on the Concerns of the Disabled
- Western Kansas Child Advocacy Program