United Way seeks to make investments in Douglas County that make a difference

Here’s one item the United Way of Douglas County says it won’t be supporting in the future: the status quo.

Becki Dick is the new chair for the United Way fundraising drive.

The organization has announced Baldwin City resident Becki Dick as its 2012 campaign fundraising chairwoman, and leaders also are working to educate the public about how it is changing its approach to funding social service agencies.

“We feel like we have a plan in place that will allow us, now more than ever, to tell people the investments they make in the community will deliver the results that will make a difference,” said Dick, who along with her husband owns and operates a Baldwin City-based forklift manufacturing company.

The United Way is entering the second year of a three-year program to build its annual funding designations around three community goals: education, self sufficiency and health. Over the past year, the United Way board has adopted a plan to jointly fund several organizations that have come together to create a plan to improve kindergarten readiness, high school graduation rates and other key educational outcomes.

Now in year two, United Way leaders expect to receive a joint proposal from several organizations working to improve systems to make individuals more self-sufficient. Colleen Gregoire, vice president and campaign director for the United Way, said leaders with the Lawrence Community Shelter, The Salvation Army, Housing and Credit Counseling, Ballard Community Services, the Douglas-County Housing Authority and others are meeting monthly to come up with a proposal on how the groups can work together to provide access to emergency assistance, affordable housing and other safety net services. Next year, the United Way will expect health-oriented organizations to come together to present a joint funding request related to health initiatives.

“By bringing these groups together, we’re moving to a process of instead of funding 29 individual agencies, we’ll be funding three collaborative teams,” Gregoire said.

The United Way will kick off its fundraising drive with its Pacesetters Campaign, a group of area businesses that raise funds at their offices, in August. The general public campaign will begin in mid-September and run through early December.

Dick said the United Way board hasn’t yet set an official dollar goal for the campaign but will do so later this summer. The 2011 campaign raised $1.7 million, which is about what was raised in 2010. Dick said there will be significant discussion about setting the dollar goal higher for the 2012 campaign.

“I have faith in our community,” Dick said. “I know this is a community that wants to help others in need.”