United Way fund-raising season nears

By Michael Davis

Helen Sturgeon says that during this time of year, she's always on the go.

As director of the United Way Campaign for the Clayton, Henry and Butts county region, Sturgeon is entering a very busy season as fundraising campaigns across the Southern Crescent, and elsewhere, heat up.

The United Way is a national fund-raising group that contributes to local charities and runs some of its own charitable programs, Sturgeon said.

"All 13 metro counties run campaigns at the same time," she said. "We're hoping that we'll have a better campaign as the economy is a little better this year."

Many of Atlanta's largest employers run UW campaigns on their own, such as J.C. Penney and metro school systems, she said.

"And it's good for people that sleep in Henry County and work in Atlanta to know that that money they give in Atlanta, comes back," she said.

Henry County Schools contributed more than $40,000 last year, school spokeswoman Cindy Foster said, with Locust Grove Elementary School topping the list as having the most teacher and student participation.

A silver "United Way Giving Cup" has adorned the halls of the school for two years, Foster said, a reward for their participation.

"They really go gangbusters. They really work hard," she said.

This year, Foster said, as an incentive to give more, schools can decide which charities their money will be focused toward. Some of the charities United Way contributes to include A Friend's House children's shelter and Haven House battered women's shelter.

"It's something more they can get behind," Foster said.

Clayton County government is also one of United Way's biggest local contributors, Sturgeon said.

Clayton government's United Way campaign coordinator, Carolyn Newman, said the county's program is a year-long combined giving program that includes United Way as well as Earth Share and Samaritans Together, a charity began by Clayton's former probate judge to benefit co-workers.

"We call it our One Pledge Plan campaign," Newman said.

Last year, she said, the county raised more than $52,000 for the three charities.

That campaign will kick off Aug. 26 and department directors will begin disseminating donation information. Donations will begin in January. "They're going back and say it's that time of year to dig down deep in your heart and decide how you want to give and give them the options," Newman said.

Clayton employees can opt to contribute through a payroll deduction for a period of one year. "It's a year-long commitment," Newman said, "but we've raised a ton of money doing that."

The United Way's Sturgeon said the UW campaign kickoff for Clayton County will be Sept. 8 at noon, at the Clayton County Rotary Club meeting at the Holiday Inn on Old Dixie Highway.

Henry County's UW kickoff will be Aug. 26 at the Henry County Chamber of Commerce's business after-hours at the Red Roof Inn in Locust Grove.