PONTIAC — The United Way of Pontiac ratcheted up its fundraising goal this year to $192,500, which is $2,500 more than last year, but the drive to fund local social service agencies has a higher goal — and a name change — in mind.
“We’re heading toward that $200,000 mark,” said fundraising coordinator Marsha Cremeens of the gradual, annual increases. “But really, our ultimate goal is to reach $250,000. That will be fantastic.”
This year’s campaign for what will become the United Way of Livingston County is now under way, following a kickoff breakfast Wednesday morning at the Pontiac Elks Club. Dave Ochs, president and CEO of OSF Saint James–John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac, was the featured speaker. He said he has been involved with United Way since 1971, and he has found it to be “an eye-opening experience.”
“There are people suffering hardships and are in difficult situations,” he said. “It’s not just older and younger people, but they come from all walks of life. If we were to lose a great organization like the United Way, we would lose heart and we would lose the tangible experience of that commitment to share with others. We would lose community pride.”
About 100 people attended the kickoff breakfast.
“Our goal this year is only slightly higher than last year and we feel confident that with the support of the community, we will reach that goal,” United Way Board President John Cummins, said.
Cremeens echoed that sentiment, noting the campaign has a history of meeting its goals, even if times are tough.
“We are aware of where the local economy is and of course, the farmers have had problems because of the drought this year,” Cremeens said. “But we know that Pontiac is a very giving community and the need is terrific. Our volunteers are dedicated and will work hard, so we start our campaign with a positive outlook.”
Seventeen agencies have received funding from the United Way. If the campaign hits its goal, funding may be increased in some situations, Cremeens said.
The organization has filed the paperwork for the name change that will reflect its wider geographic reach, Cremeens said.
“So many of the agencies we provide funding for assist clients throughout the county,” she said. “We are working with social service groups in the communities outside of Pontiac to make sure we aren’t doing any harm to them. We want to work in conjunction with those groups and certainly not against them.”
The fundraising co-chairmen are Pontiac optometrist Reid Pettit and his wife, Denise.