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United Way celebrates uptick

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Increased support brings in $2.2 million for nonprofit agency

FORT WORTH — The United Way of Denton County raised more than $2.2 million during 2013, campaign chairman Greg Sawko announced before a room filled with glitz and glamour Saturday night at the United Tribute event at the Marriott Hotel at Champions Circle.

Officials said they could not have raised the $2,218,249 without the support of their volunteers and more than 9,500 donors.

Gary Henderson, president and CEO of United Way of Denton County, said they are pleased with the more than 7 percent increase in funds over last year. Thirty allocation volunteers have already completed their initial site visits to each of the 20 community organizations United Way partners with to provide assistance each year.

Last year, the nonprofit organization broke its records by raising more than $2 million. But the monies raised still don’t cover all the needs in Denton County and the goal is always to raise more as the population continues to grow, organizers said.

According to a recent needs assessment conducted by the local United Way, nearly one in three Denton County children is at risk of dropping out of school, nearly 100,000 county residents are food insecure, and as many as one out of every four households in the county experiences financial instability.

“Now is the time when the nonprofits we assist will go into greater detail to explain their financial needs to us,” Henderson said. “Once the allocation volunteers review those in need, our board will approve the final amounts at the March board meeting.”

Once approved, their partnering agencies — Big Brothers Big Sisters, Denton County Friends of the Family and Fred Moore Day Nursery School, to name as few — will begin receiving their first of 12 monthly increments April 1.

“In the past year, we have continued our efforts to meet the needs of our communities in the key areas of education, income and health. And, thanks to your generous support, these efforts will continue in 2014,” said board chairwoman Dawn Cobb, managing editor of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Those 2014 efforts, officials say, have already begun. By the end of February, 80 campaign demonstrations will have taken place across Lewisville and Northwest school districts.

Saturday evening was not just about announcements. Dresses swirled on the dance floor during the second annual United Tribute featuring the organization’s take on Dancing With the Stars with local faces. Dancers in the competition included Cara Price, Staci Wallace, Judy Shortino, Jim Biggerstaff, Jamie Wilson, James King, Adam Reese and Melanie Vest.

Competition results were not available at press time.

In addition, five awards were presented by Sawko:

Creating Lasting Change Award: The Denton school district won the award for increasing its fundraising campaign by nearly 40 percent this year.

Advancing the Common Good Award: Denton Regional Medical Center won for not only growing its 2013 campaign but finding other ways to support the organization, including in-kind donations and employee volunteerism.

Live United Award: Little Elm won because even though it was the town’s first year to take part in the campaign, people jumped in and supported Bank On Denton County and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs.

Better Tomorrow Award: The University of North Texas won for its focus on community engagement in creating a United Way Student Leadership Organization, recognized by United Way Worldwide, a first in North Texas. In addition, UNT accounts for eight out of every 10 Mentor Denton volunteers.

Chairman’s Choice Award: Peterbilt Motors Co. won for bringing in $392,239 — the most raised during the 2013 campaign.

Before the evening came to a close, Henderson reflected on the hard work of the past year.

“It’s a year of tedious work, but for someone to decide to make their philanthropic donations here and keep them in their own backyard really makes the difference and all the hard work poured in by our volunteers worth it,” he said.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.