The Heart of Illinois United Way has so far raised more than $1.4 million dollars in its annual campaign that kicked off Fri.
That puts the fundraiser about on par with last year, which ended up raising a record total of $11.6 million dollars. The money funds initiatives that have the greatest impact on poverty and disparities in the six-county region.
Those needs are identified in the United Way’s annual community assessment released in the summer.
“That helps not only the agencies understand what services they need to bring to the community, but it helps the United Way understand what programs really should be funded in order to address the greatest needs of the community,” Bill Pape said. He and his wife Rebecca are co-chairing this year’s campaign.
Some of the needs identified in this year’s assessment include income , health and education. Thirty school districts in the region reported 33 percent of more of their students last year were low income. That’s a 25 percent increase since 2013.
This year’s campaign is particularly valuable to health and human service agencies that faced cuts or delayed payments during the two-year state budget impasse, which ended in July.
Neighborhood House President Becky Rossman says her nonprofit was largely unscathed.
“We’ve been pretty lucky there. But a lot of our payments, we don’t know when they’re coming in, but the one thing we know about United Way, is it’s consistent. We get it the same time, every month, and it doesn’t change," Rossman said. "So, being able to rely on that funding has been instrumental in continuing us moving forward with our programs.”
Neighborhood House provides early childhood education and free meals to the South Side community. Rossman says they’ve recently expanded services to provide coaching in professional development and financial literacy. She says so far, they’ve helped 14 individuals improve their net worth.
The annual Heart of Illinois United Way campaign raises money that supports health and human service agencies and programs in Marshall, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell and Woodford Counties. Its campaign kickoff Friday also included a Day of Caring, where more than 1,500 volunteers pitched in at nonprofits throughout the community.