United Way campaign kickoff

United Way of Coastal Georgia kicked off its annual campaign Monday with a volunteer event at the Boys & Girls Club site at Burroughs-Molette Elementary. Volunteers installed a Born Learning Trail, which provides early education opportunities for local children.

United Way of Coastal Georgia kicked off its 2020-21 annual fundraising campaign Monday.

The weeklong kickoff launched with a volunteer opportunity and will include a series of in-person events and online activities.

This year’s campaign theme is “United we change lives.”

United Way works to increase economic self-sufficiency for residents of Glynn and McIntosh counties by supporting local agencies. The annual fundraising campaign invites individuals and organizations to donate and support its mission.

The 2020-21 campaign will run through the end of February 2021 and seeks to raise more than $800,000. So far, more than $122,000 has been realized.

“This is where we raise the dollars that make an impact and change lives in the community,” said Justin Callaway, executive director of United Way of Coastal Georgia, during the volunteer event.

United Way also unveiled a video that included messages from community partners and leaders. This year’s campaign is especially critical, Callaway said, as the community continues to address the challenges created by the pandemic.

“I would say that this year, more than any others, you see the real basic need in our community,” he said. “It’s a challenge to our counties, where we have one of the richest zip codes and one of the poorest cities in the state kind of right next to each other. And it’s a challenge to say we need to, as a community, come together and provide for those that are less fortunate.”

As part of the campaign kickoff, United Way planned two in-person volunteer events this week, both of which adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines and social distancing recommendations.

Volunteers, most stakeholders in early education, installed a Born Learning Trail at the Boys & Girl Club at Burroughs-Molette Elementary. The trail is designed to help adults interact with children to boost language and literacy development.

The permanent outdoor fixture on the Burroughs-Molette property is open to the public.

“It’s focused on turning everyday outdoor moments into learning opportunities for parents and caregivers,” said Janelle Harvey, community impact manager for United Way. “The focus is on language and literacy development and getting kids school-ready.”

The trail, geared toward ages 3-4, includes 10 signs and activities for children to participate in with their families.

“It’s absolutely amazing that the United Way has brought the community together to support academics for our young kids,” said Brian Dolan, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Georgia. “It’s a great opportunity for parents and families to come together, especially in today’s tough times with COVID and social distancing.”

The second volunteer opportunity will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday in partnership with America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia. A food distribution event will be held at Glynn Place Mall with volunteers from United Way, St. Simons Community Church and the Georgia National Guard.

“One of the United Way’s values is volunteerism, so we wanted to give a couple of volunteer opportunities throughout the kickoff week,” Harvey said.

Michael Scherneck, president and CEO of Southeast Georgia Health System, was named in July as the honorary campaign chair. He is joined by a campaign cabinet made up of community leaders and volunteers.

Businesses wishing to take part in workplace campaigns are encouraged to contact Callaway at justin@uwcga.org.

New this year is a “Caring Club Card,” which United Way is instituting as a way to thank donors. The card will offer discounts at a variety of local places, including restaurants, automotive service providers and health and beauty shops.

The cards will be available to anyone who gives $3 a week or more to United Way. Money raised will be distributed to local agencies through grants.

United Way annually administers a thorough application process, distributing money to groups that will make an impact on the community.

“We truly feel like we have a fiduciary responsibility to all of our donors to make sure that their dollars are having the largest impact possible in the community,” said Mary Jenrette, United Way board chair and senior vice president of Synovus Wealth Management. “A dollar given to United Way multiplies several times over because we’re putting it where we see the most impact in changing lives here Glynn County and McIntosh County.”

Newly established agencies also benefit from partnering with United Way. Doing so benefits the groups as they seek out additional funding and matching grants from other sources.

“That’s an extremely important role with United Way, and that’s an extremely important piece for agencies in our community,” Callaway said. “United Way’s investment process is well known and it’s well respected.”

Those wishing to donate to the campaign can do so online at uwcga.org.

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