Wiregrass United Way working to ‘improve lives and provide lasting change’

The Wiregrass United Way has worked to cut fundraising time for their partners since 1938.
The Wiregrass United Way has worked to cut fundraising time for their partners since 1938.
Updated: Jan. 12, 2023 at 3:30 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - For decades the Wiregrass United Way has campaigned to raise money. Those dollars empower organizations who help hundreds of thousands of people in need right here in our area.

”The simple way to sum it up is we raise money,” Walter Hill, CEO of Wiregrass United Way, said.

That money raised by the Wiregrass United Way goes to health and human service organizations in the six counties they serve. Those counties are Barbour, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston.

”We do that so they can spend the bulk of their time doing the programs and services they offer, helping people here in the Wiregrass, so they don’t have to spend as much time fundraising,” Hill said.

The Wiregrass United Way has worked to cut fundraising time for their partners since 1938 with a vision to “improve lives and provide lasting change.”

”A community is only as strong as its weakest link,” Hill said. “So, if we can help those that have some type of need, improve their lives, we’re really all helping our community.”

It started with helping three organizations. One of them being the Salvation Army, who provides food and disaster assistance to those in need. The other two original groups are the Boy Scouts and the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center, all of which are still partners with the Wiregrass United Way today.

Over the years that number has increased immensely. The nonprofit now partners with over 30 groups chosen based on merit by the people in the Wiregrass.

Hill said their campaigning is vital to helping their partners.

”It costs money to run any business, and nonprofit organizations are businesses,” Hill said.

They don’t cover 100-percent of the organizations budget, but help each group accomplish their goals.

”There are agencies that give food, that give clothing, that provide shelter, they provide free counseling, they’re giving something but what they’re really doing is giving them a hand up,” Hill said. “This is not to be where they keep coming back to the same need over and over again, they want to work with them, ‘Oh, you don’t earn enough to provide for your family? Let’s help you get a GED, let’s help get you some free job training at one of our community college, let’s help you with your soft skills so you can get a better job and then we’re going to teach you how to keep your job,’ because people don’t know what they don’t know and these services provided by our agencies can help them take their life to the next level and it really is a step up in their life that’s why we like to use the phrase, ‘Hand up, not a hand out.’”

It’s a collective effort that doesn’t work without community.

”We cannot do what we do without the community members that step up and kind of hold our hands and join together and really, really impact our community,” Josie Shepard, area manager and director of marketing, said.

Shepard is a part of Wiregrass United Way’s staff of six.

”I tell everyone all the time that I literally get to work with some of the best volunteers, the most generous people in the Wiregrass, and also that every day the things that I’m doing have a purpose,” Shepard said.

She said the support they receive year to year from donors does not go unnoticed.

”Whenever people step up and help us, that just multiplies our impact and gets to help more people in the Wiregrass,” Shepard said.

Along with individuals, the Wiregrass United Way works with over 300 businesses each year to raise campaign funds, and they understand the value of every penny donated.

”If you share a part of your hard-earned money, we are going to be accountable for every dollar we raise and we have a lot of processes in place to make sure we can do that,” Hill said.

2022 brought success to this nonprofit. They surpassed their campaign goal and raised over 2.7 million dollars amid financial challenges seen across the nation.

”It’s been a great year coming off of COVID and the hardships that we faced and the challenges that we faced, this year was a much easier year fundraising because people are really seeing the needs in the community and stepping up to help us and we appreciate it,” Shepard said.

Hill said 2023 is looking good for them so far. The Wiregrass United Way campaign kickoff date is already set. Soon, they will be recruiting volunteers and their leadership team is set to meet in April to set their yearly campaign goal.

The Wiregrass United Way is always accepting new donors. To join them on their mission of ‘Uniting community-approved organizations and allocating resources to ensure accountability to our donors,’ contact them by using the information below.

WUW Phone: (334)792-9661

WUW Website: https://www.wuw.org/

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