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United Way kicks off annual campaign

Profile image for By Megan Gray-Hatfield
By Megan Gray-Hatfield

More than 5,000 children benefited from last year’s United Way of Denton County fundraising campaign and as the 2014 campaign kicked off Friday, officials said they hope to continue to be an anchor of support in the community.

Last year’s campaign raised more than $2.2 million, and officials aim to meet or exceed that amount with this year’s campaign, which was launched during a luncheon at the University of North Texas Gateway Center.

Supporters’ contributions to the United Way help numerous community organizations, including Court Appointed Special Advocates of Denton County.

Sherri Gideon, executive director of CASA of Denton County, an organization that provides a voice for children in the court system, said that although the $30,000 received from the United Way is only a small part of an $800,000 budget, every little bit helps.

“Being a partner agency [of the United Way of Denton County] provides us name recognition and beneficial opportunities to work with other partnering agencies to better serve our clients,” Gideon said in an interview Friday.

In 2013, Gideon said, her agency was able to assist 451 children removed from Denton County homes and placed in the foster care system. So far this year, they have assisted 407.

Jackie Davis, the event’s guest speaker, spoke about how CASA helped him and his siblings when no one else could.

Davis said he and his four siblings were placed in the foster care system at a young age after their parents’ rights were terminated because of severe alcoholism.

Davis said he was shuttled in and out of numerous homes, but then a CASA worker took an interest in his case and told him he would “be someone great.”

Davis, now 31, is president of Persevere UNTil Success Happens.

PUSH is a UNT student organization created to raise awareness in the public and university communities about youths in the welfare system and to provide support, resources and fellowship to students who were in foster care.

“When I became careless, I was molded and shaped by the hands and members of the community,” said Davis, who is about to graduate from UNT with a bachelor’s degree in social work. “I am still here and I matter.”

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