Ameritas challenges others in giving to United Way this year
Cold weather took its toll on the event last year, but this year the United Wayne Kickoff BBQ will take place in August rather than October.
"Chele (Meisenbach) got with me about a month ago to get this started," said United Way President Mike Varley. "We moved it to August and that works for us so now we'll fundraise for the next year."
The United Way is unique in that nearly every penny of the dollar donated goes toward local non-profits. There aren't high overhead costs to be accounted for and the yearly dues are less than $1,000 for the chapter, so more money is going toward the organizations in need of the funds rather than toward a salary or expenses of the United Way.
"What's raised here stays here," said Chele Meisenbach, a manager at Ameritas. "If you want to write a check for $50, I'd say about $49.75 stays right here in the community."
It's a simple process for the charities to request funds,too.
"They come to us, pitch their ideas and tell us what they'd like, then we get together as a board and come up with a goal," Varley said.
Organizations can ask for as little as $1,000 up to $6,000 from United Way. The goal is set based on all the requests added up and from there a year of fundraising occurs before funds are dispersed in July.
"Last year our goal was $31,900, this year I'm guessing will be $34-$35,000 since we added a new group."
And what are the charities that utilize United Way funding? There are 16 to be exact.
Wayne WEB, Wayne Girl Scouts, Wayne Senior Center, Wayne Haven House, Northeast Nebraska Child Advocacy Center, Wayne Public Library Summer Reading Program, Salvation Army, Wayne Department of Recreation, Wayne TeamMates, Wayne Association of Congregations and Ministers, Greenwood Cemetery, Wayne Boy Scouts, Wayne Cub Scouts, Northeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership and the Wayne Community Theatre all benefitted from United Way funds last year.
"One of the great things about it is that it would be hard to find someone in town not affected. There's kids, teachers, WEB, the Historical Society has been on the list before. It would be very hard to not include someone from the help United Way offers," Meisenbach said.
It's because of that inclusion that Ameritas has jumped head-first into fundraising and being an encourager to other businesses in the community to do the same.
"It really started back with the t-shirts we had made after the tornado. We sold the shirts and gave the money directly to United Way who handled it all," Meisenbach said of Ameritas' involvement with United Way. "We've always been a donor but we recommitted ourselves."
This year's Kick Off BBQ will take place in the Ameritas parking lot for a few reasons, the biggest being location and space. The other big factor is that a number of volunteers for the night come from Ameritas as well.
Several businesses in town donate food and even a large grill, but volunteers do all the cooking and serving.
This year 'quarter games' will be provided as well as live music by the Front Porch Pickers. A free will donation of $5 is suggested.
Shirts have been designed and will be available for purchase that night as well as ahead of time. T-shirts are $15 each.
The theme "charity strikes back" is a play on Star Wars, and Meisenbach encouraged embracing the theme that night.
Meisenbach is looking for businesses to pull together and encourage their employees to give.
"Our challenge this year was really 'how are we going to challenge the other businesses in town.' We did the t-shirts for everyone but we have had a couple businesses purchase shirts for each of their employees to wear every Friday in October, which is United Way's month."
Ameritas will host its "Camp Out to Help Out" fundraiser the first week of October during Wayne State College's homecoming. All of the proceeds and donations collected will be given directly to the United Way.
Meisenbach has high hopes that many businesses in the community will also come up with their own fundraiser to help fund the United Way because of the wide-reach it has.
"They help everyone -- from the person that sits beside you every day to some person in town you may not even know," she said. "That's the great part about the United Way. It's 360 degrees of giving."
The Kickoff BBQ will take place on Aug. 24 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ameritas parking lot at 513 Main Street.