United Way Kicks off annual fundraising drive

United Way of Marion County kicked off their community fundraising efforts on August 31st by replicating a boxing ring to match the campaign theme “United We Fight. United We Win.” Participants heard about the issues in our community presented by volunteer vice chair, Chuck Trout from Publix Super Markets, the community solutions presented by Scot Quintel, United Way of Marion County CEO and President, community results from Cheri Pettitt, executive director from the Arnette House, one of United Way’s funded partners, and Judeline Moncion, one of United Way’s Strong Families participants, who has personally been helped. 
“I was connected with resources in the community that I never knew existed,” said Moncion.  “You never know who you are helping with your donation. This time it was my family, and next time it might be yours.”  Moncion shared her story about losing her job and eventually her home and found herself homeless with her seven children. She bounced from motel to motel until finally being connected with Shepherd’s Lighthouse in Belleview, another United Way's funded partner who helps house homeless women and children. It was through Shepherd’s Lighthouse that Moncion was connected with the United Way Strong Families initative.
Quintel explained that through programs like Strong Families, United Way gives families the tools they need to be successful. Launched in July of 2016, the results for the first group of families include seven of the eight families that were living in temporary shelters when they started the initiative, were moved into permanent, stable housing.  Forty percent of the adults furthered their education by finishing their GED, or going back to school to learn a new skill;. and of the families that graduated from the skill building classes, 83 percent of those that started, raised their household income an average of 51 percent.  This effort has been so successful that this past July the number of families served was double and a new group will be launched in January 2018 in Dunnellon.  
Volunteer campaign chair, Rusty Branson from CenterState Bank, announced a 2017 campaign goal of $2 million.  This amount is a four percent increase over last year's total which was $1,927,431. 
"It’s time to work together and address these issues head on,” Branson said.  “Each of us must do our part to help Marion County, bringing a new level of support to those in the community who need our help most and to help us accomplish our community goals.”
To get involved or donate, visit www.uwmc.org for more information.
United Way of Marion County is the most comprehensive health and human services charity and the largest provider of funds to the community’s most critical health and human service programs. The organization partners with local businesses, government, other charities and individuals to increase awareness of local health and human service issues and to inspire hope, provide options, and create possibilities for the people in our community.