‘United Way has just really given us a seat at the table…to reach an audience that doesn't know what we're doing or just isn't aware of the services that are available through our organization.’
HATTIESBURG, MISS. – Several local companies in Hattiesburg and surrounding areas are joining United Way of Southeast Mississippi in kicking off its annual fundraising with its Pacesetter Campaign in a united effort to “give hope and change lives.”
The organization’s Workplace Campaign is a major fundraiser involving many local businesses partnering with United Way to host various presentations and activities to generate awareness for United Way’s work in the community. Through payroll giving, these corporate partners enable and encourage their employees to make a financial investment in the community through United Way.
To prepare for the launch of this year’s Campaign season, United Way held a Pacesetter Kick-off Breakfast and Agency Expo July 12 at Ogletree Alumni House on The University of Southern Mississippi campus recognizing this year’s Campaign Pacesetters. Pacesetters are local companies that have volunteered to take the lead by committing their organization to a specific donation goal. This year’s Pacesetters are Anderson Design Center, the Area Development Partnership, BancorpSouth, Citizens National Bank, Forrest General Hospital, Hancock Whitney, Hattiesburg Clinic, Hood Industries, Mississippi Power, Regions Bank, The First, and Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative.
Representatives from the Pacesetter companies were treated to breakfast and had a chance to meet some United Way Partner Agencies, including Juli Martinez with Hope Community Collective.
“United Way has just really given us a seat at the table, and abilities to tell our stories, and to reach an audience that doesn't know what we're doing or just isn't aware of the services that are available through our organization,” said Martinez, who serves as HCC’s Executive Director. “I think it's so important to invest your donor dollars in the local organizations because they're actually doing the work in the communities where you work and live and where your kids go to school. And you can trust organizations that have been sustained over a lot of years.”
This year’s campaign theme is “Give Hope. Change Lives.” United Way of Southeast Mississippi Resource Development Manager Ali Rogers said the theme is meant to be a call to action.
“Current economic conditions have resulted in higher demand and inflated costs for our nonprofit partners, especially those providing food services. Not only are they struggling to serve the clients they already have, they’re seeing more and more new clients needing their services,” said Rogers. “We want this year’s Workplace Campaign to encourage those who can to support these growing needs. When employees at these companies give to United Way, they really are changing lives in a wide-reaching way.”
Currently, United Way funds 19 programs by local nonprofits, all of which are serving the community in diverse ways. Some of these include food assistance, counseling, free health care, hispanic services, protection and advocacy for abuse survivors, etc.
Deanna Young, Vice President and Retail Operations Leader at Hancock Whitney in Hattiesburg, has been a supporter and volunteer of United Way SEMS for years. She is a volunteer Campaign Coordinator for Hancock Whitney’s UW Workplace Campaign, a role she says she’s happy to do.
“Supporting United Way enables me to give back to the community that I live and work in. I am able to see that donating my time and money is helping change lives in my community,” said Young. “I am proud to work for a company, like Hancock Whitney, that encourages all associates to participate in the UW Workplace campaign. One of Hancock Whitney’s Core Values is Commitment to Service, meaning that we vow to provide exceptional service to our clients and community. This aligns with what United Way does on a daily basis. We believe that through the United Way, we can make a difference in every community that we serve.”
While United Way sees most of its donations through Workplace Campaigns, anyone can donate, even if they’re not an employee of a participating company. To donate to United Way of Southeast Mississippi, click here. To organize a Workplace Campaign, contact Ali Rogers at 601-475-0183.