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United Way discusses leadership and homelessness over breakfast

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Kyle Martin, Staff Writer

More than 100 people gathered Friday morning for United Way of Denton County's 2017 Campaign Kickoff Breakfast at the University of North Texas Gateway Center.

“We have addressed the needs that have been local to us: homelessness, behavioral health, our veterans,” said Lyle Dresher, board chairman for the local agency. “And by addressing those early on and aggressively, I believe that we have set the standards for many so that those that need these types of services know that Denton County United Way does such an excellent job of providing those services. They’re coming to us.”

The United Way is a nonprofit group founded in 1951 that gathers financial support and manpower from volunteers and donors to help families, military veterans and disabled people in Denton County overcome issues such as homelessness and mental illness. Through the event, speakers expressed their thanks to donors, partners and volunteers for financial and developmental contributions.

Dresher said the group raised about $2.3 million in last year’s campaign, “but the need continues to grow and is getting greater every day.” Gary Henderson, the nonprofit group’s president and CEO, said last year United Way served about 85,000 people in Denton County affected by homelessness.

“It’s a momentary blip in their life, but it can’t be a permanent derailment in their life, and that’s where you all come in,” he said.

Friday's event included giveaways, food catered by UNT dining services and video presentations depicting statistics and stories of people affected by homelessness and mental illnesses. Mental health was addressed as a key issue, especially in advocating for proper services for those in need of care. 

“Your first step toward healing if you’re experiencing mental illness cannot be a trip to the Lewisville City Jail, the Denton City Jail or to our Denton County lockup,” Henderson said. "That’s not how we help people to get well.”

State Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton, spoke during the meeting and offered a call for leadership from the people of Denton County and thanked donors and contributors for their services to United Way.

“As far as I’m concerned, Denton County is looked upon from the state as a leader, and the state of Texas is looked upon from the other states as a leader,” Stucky said. “If we split Texas away from all the other states, our economy of the state of Texas is bigger than Russia and is bigger than Mexico, so we are looked upon by the nation and by other nations as a leader. And Denton County is at the top of that right here in North Texas.”

KYLE MARTIN can be reached at 940-566-6897. 

FEATURED PHOTO: Lyle Dresher, chairman of the United Way of Denton County Board of Directors, speaks to guests during Friday's United Way Kickoff Breakfast event at the University of North Texas Gateway Center in Denton. The organization debuted its latest campaign video, launched its Pacesetter campaigns and demonstrated the power of a community working together.
Jeff Woo/DRC