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United Way shifts focus from raising money to changing lives

Pat Hanrahan, president of United Way of the Plains, talks about the organization’s goals at its fundraising kickoff event Thursday morning at Century II.
Pat Hanrahan, president of United Way of the Plains, talks about the organization’s goals at its fundraising kickoff event Thursday morning at Century II. The Wichita Eagle

The United Way of the Plains is changing things up this year and not publicly announcing a monetary goal for its annual campaign.

The campaign goal has typically been about $15 million in recent years.

“We entertained a strategic plan in the last year and after going through that and understanding what other United Ways do, we decided to change our messaging more from raising dollars to changing lives and creating awareness about the services that we offer,” said Jeff Van Sickle, chief executive at GLMV Architecture and this year’s campaign chairman.

More than 600 people gathered Thursday morning at the annual United Way Breakfast of Champions, where the emphasis was on recognizing three main issues within the community: strengthening school attendance, helping the homeless and encouraging the isolated elderly.

The audience was encouraged at the breakfast to make school punctuality kits for children, decorate bags for baked items for elderly residents and put together hygiene kits for Wichita’s homeless. Attendees at the breakfast made more than 2,100 kits.

Van Sickle told the audience that “the United Way doesn’t just collect money, it changes lives.”

Although it’s encouraging more action, that doesn’t mean the agency won’t accept donations.

None of what United Way wants to accomplish this year will happen without the funds to support that action, said Patrick Hanrahan, president of United Way of the Plains. The agency is encouraging companies to set their own monetary goals so community objectives can be funded.

United Way of the Plains typically helps fund 78 programs at 34 agencies in the community.

New this year is a Donor Option Policy in which individuals can designate a contribution to any local, human service 501(c)(3) organization of their choice by writing the name and address of the organization on their pledge form. A minimum gift of $100 per nonprofit is required.

“The needs are so great, the programs are life-changing,” Van Sickle said. “It takes a lot to support these programs, but there is something really magical if you and me decide to pool our resources, somehow every gift large and small can make a difference.”

The goals this year, Van Sickle said, are simple:

▪  Set more children on the path to success.

▪  Empower more people to become financially stable.

▪  Build a healthier community.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

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