United Way of Stephens County pushes for donations to help nonprofits

United Way of Stephens County is calling for more donations ahead of the 2022 funding year for local nonprofits it services.

Recent events have put a damper on things financially but that’s not stopping one local organization from fulfilling their mission of helping local nonprofits assist those in need in the community.

The United Way of Stephens County has once again issued a call for donations from community members. Helen Stewart, Executive Director for Stephens County United Way, said she’s thankful for each and every donor the entity has, but they’re struggling to meet their goal of $275,000 and have only made it about 34% of the way there.

COVID issues continue to hurt our community and the way we go about asking for donations are even harder,” Stewart said. “Generally, we went into local businesses and gave presentations asking employers and employees to donate to our agencies, but with COVID most employers are not allowing presentations as employees are working from home, so it has been difficult.”

Stewart said previously the organization gave out 15 applications for grants and the worry is not raising the money will cause issues with funding nonprofits in 2022.

“The money we raise now is the funding we will give out during the 2022 allocation sessions,” she said. “If we do not reach our goal, we will not be able to support these agencies. I understand that people want to give to a special cause, but what we do is that we spread the donations we receive to nonprofits in Stephens County by vetting them and ensuring all funds raised here stay here.”

Stewart said many of the agencies run on volunteers and paid staff and the agencies are overall seeing more clients than they did before COVID-19.

“You can literally walk down the street and see people who have been helped by the United Way, one in four families have received help in one way or another,” Stewart said. “Some serve a certain niche that cannot been found elsewhere for example our seniors. We have three senior centers, and it was hard on seniors who could not go out and socialize with others and enjoy a hot meal. Our local nutrition center delivered more meals than before. The United Way delivers meals to those who are shut ins and for my route alone I added several new households.”

But the funding helps in other ways too, Stewart said. Through the United Way, families known as ALICE families (asset limited, income constrained, employed) are helped, according to Stewart, when usually they would be “forced to make impossible choices when funds run short, such as deciding between quality childcare or paying the rent, filling a prescription, or fixing the car.”

“These short-term decisions have long-term consequences not only for these families but all of us,” she said. “Our mission is to improve our community’s quality of life by uniting resources in support of our building blocks which focus on health, education, and income/financial stability.”

Stewart said donating to the United Way helps many entities, not just one.

“While there are many nonprofits in Stephens County, we are different,” Stewart said of the umbrella United Way of Stephens County functions as for the area nonprofits. “Instead of donating to one organization directly you invest in the entire community, not just one program issue or population. United Way is strengthening the opportunities for all who live in our county. The results these United Way funded programs achieve have benefits that ripple out to the community as a whole. It is important to us not only to raise money for the United Way of Stephens County but also to help increase overall awareness of its missions and programs.”

Donations can be mailed to PO Box 1632, Duncan OK 73534.

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