BROOKINGS – Helping neighbors is important, and the United Way is highlighting that Sept. 16-22 with its Week of Impact, which contributes to the well-being of Brookings County.
The Week of Impact kicks off the United Way’s annual pledge drive, raising money for local organizations to help people who need it, said Heidi Gullickson, executive director of Brookings Area United Way.
The theme this year is United Together for Impact.
The main goal is to raise money, but those who take part get a sense of accomplishment out of it, too.
There’s two ways to help, Gullickson said: take part in one (or more) of the activities or take part in one of the drives to gather items.
United Way’s goal this year is to raise $1.2 million, and that’s based on the needs of the organizations United Way serves, Gullickson said.
Activities and drives
For a full list of all the activities and drives, go to volunteer.helplinecenter.org and click on the blue flyer for Week of Impact, or call 692-4979 or 211.
There’s something listed every day, and some activities are scheduled for more than one day so folks can fit activities into their schedule.
One of the first activities is a blood drive set for noon-6 p.m. Monday at the Outdoor Adventure Center.
“We have a partnership with the Bobcat Backers Booster Club,” Gullickson said. “The Red Cross has a program that if the booster club helps with the blood drive … and we have at least 30 people who donate blood, then the Red Cross donates $10 for every person back to the booster club.”
Volunteers can pack food with Feeding Brookings and the Brookings Backpack Project, “which are great for a group of people – a work group or a large family,” Gullickson said, adding some businesses use the activities to promote team-building.
Some of the activities are even more hands-on. Habitat for Humanity and Sleep in Heavenly Peace will have builds. The Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter and United Living Community need volunteers to get their outdoor areas ready for winter with some fall clean-up. The Brookings Activity Center needs a hallway painted. The Big Blue Birthday Box needs help with wrapping birthday presents.
“For the Salvation Army, they’re making the assistant packs: A cleaning pack and a hygiene pack. She needs quite a few volunteers for that, too,” Gullickson said.
“If someone isn’t able to go out and do a volunteer opportunity, we have examples of different drives they could do for donations,” Gullickson said, “anything from dental care products to cleaning care products. Those can just be donated here to our office, then we can get them out to those (organizations) who need them.”
Where the money goes
The Week of Impact is just the start; the United Way’s fundraising campaign stretches to the end of the year.
“It takes a while to bring in $1.2 million,” Gullickson noted.
Last year’s goal was $1.1 million, and they fell a bit short, raising $1.028 million.
“I would love to make goal. Based on the need in the community, the goal has been set at $1.2 million,” Gullickson said.
The needs of those community organizations have grown considerably in recent years, for different reasons, she said.
“As the community grows, we see a higher need in that respect and most families are really one diagnosis, or one accident, or one crisis away from being in a completely different situation and when that change happens, we have agencies here that can help,” Gullickson said.
The goal goes up nearly every year because the demands increase all the time, as well, she said.
“Just their cost of doing the program rises based on outside factors that they can’t control,” Gullickson said.
Sometimes the number of people served by those organizations goes up. Sometimes they offer more services, “a new need in the community, just something that wasn’t being filled before,” Gullickson said.
Sometimes the needs themselves shift and expand.
“The example would be the mental health,” Gullickson said, adding the Mental Health Task Force has a survey out to gather information so officials can better understand the challenges.
“We’ll see different changes in how our partners can provide those services and what the need is in the community to provide those services,” she said.
Week of Impact and the pledge drive makes Brookings County a better place in different ways.
“We know to have all of these programs in our community be successful that we need the dollars and the volunteers, so (we’re) trying to use this Week of Impact as a way to do both to maybe give an opportunity for somebody who’s never been able to volunteer at a place, a new experience,” Gullickson said.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]