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Crawford now has its own United Way

June 10, 2009
The United Way of Crawford County was organized about a year ago, and the hard work of those involved with the program is already paying off.

Last week, the group was able to give a $1,000 check to a local food pantry to help some of the most needy county residents.

The idea for a local United Way was the brainchild of Mary Talmadge and Sharon Lawson, who works for Purdue University in the Crawford County Extension office. Others got involved, a board was chosen and, as donations began coming in, the program focused on doing good things for the community right from the start.

Seeing a need for winter coats for many on limited incomes, the United Way group conducted two winter coat give-aways. Hundreds of coats were given away, and the few that were leftover were given to the clothes closet at Mount Zion Church off Speed Road.

The group also helped with emergency food assistance after the Hurricane Ike windstorm disaster and donated coat racks to local churches that distributed winter coats. They made food donations to a local food pantry. They conducted a "Stuff the Bus" school supply drive at the Paoli Wal-Mart Supercenter that netted a truck load of items for Crawford County children, and they set up the distribution of Family Wize Prescription Discount Cards at several locations throughout the county.

"When we decided to start a United Way program here, there were no charters available," Talmadge said. "So, we met with Rebecca Fenn, who is with United Way in Perry County, and they allowed us to use their charter. But we're a separate program. We have our own bank account, our board makes all our decisions and our money stays in Crawford County."

Through a local fund drive, the group was able to raise more than $700. The United Way of Indiana matches these funds dollar for dollar, so they were able to double their money.

The group then recruited an advisory board and gathered ideas on how the money should be spent. Several ideas were presented then voted on. The Cedar Street Baptist Church Food Pantry in Marengo received the most votes, and the United Way of Crawford County presented its first major donation — $1,000 — to the food bank last week. The rest of the money will be held in reserve and used as more funds accumulate.

"If we continue to get funds in, we'll probably open it for applications," Talmadge said. "We want our money to stay here, and there are a lot of needs in this county. We believe we can help. We saw a hole in services here in Crawford County, and it's disturbing. But we believe we can find a way to help, and that's our focus."

Much of the United Way funding comes from payroll deductions at participating businesses and companies. Many employees who live in Crawford County but work in other counties, and even those who work in Louisville, make United Way donations; however, a large percentage of those donations don't come back to Crawford County.

"We really need to let Crawford County people know that if they are donating to United Way through payroll deductions, (to) let their employers know to direct their donations to the United Way of Crawford County. Otherwise, their donations go to Metro United Way, and we won't see a dime of it here in Crawford County," Talmadge said. "Many people just assume that their donations go to the county where they live, but that's not the case. They have to specify where they want them to go."

The group is also encouraging businesses in the county to set up payroll deductions for their employees and hopes to get courthouse and school corporation employees to join also.

"So far, we are limited in the amount of help we're getting from local business," Talmadge said. "But I believe that will change in time. We'd like to get the banks and other businesses committed to payroll deductions for their employees. That could help us tremendously."

Board members for Crawford County United Way include Talmadge, Lawson, Sherrie Bell, Judy Bowman and Trudy and Ken Stephens.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can send it to Crawford County United Way, P.O. Box 7, English, IN 47118. Any business that wants to join in a payroll deduction program can contact Rebecca Fenn at 1-812-547-2577.

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