By MATT CRANE
This fall, the United Way of North Central Mississippi has one goal: Live united.
Serving Oktibbeha, Choctaw, Webster and Winston counties, the organization began its 2013 campaign with a luncheon program Wednesday at the Starkville Sportsplex.
Executive Director Nikki Rives said the United Wayâ€™s work is done by multiple community organizations serving a broad spectrum of residents in the four counties.
â€śThe United Way funds 16 local agencies that do work ranging from disaster relief provided by the Red Cross to delivering meals to the elderly through the Area Agency on Aging,â€ť she said. â€śI believe itâ€™s necessary for the Starkville community to get involved with United Way because the financial support creates positive changes, and the individuals that support us are changing lives in our community.â€ť
Rives, who has been executive director for three years, said the campaign goal of $300,000 is going well and said she has a good feeling about reaching that goal by the Nov. 30 campaign cutoff.
â€śI feel very optimistic we will make our goal,â€ť she said. â€śWe are already at 10 percent, so weâ€™re starting the campaign off very well.â€ť
The local agencies funded by the United Way include the Northeast Miss. Chapter of the American Red Cross, Area Agency on Aging/Fellowship Foods/Homemaker Services, Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Club of Oktibbeha County, Brickfire Project, CONTACT Helpline, The Fatherâ€™s Child Ministries, 4-H Clubs, Girl Scouts of Northeast Miss., Habitat for Humanity, North Miss. Kidney Foundation, Oktibbeha County Humane Society, The Salvation Army, Safe Haven/The Rape Crisis Center and the Sally Kate Winters Childrenâ€™s Home.
Associate Vice President and Executive Director of the Mississippi State University Alumni Association Jimmy Abraham served as the keynote speaker and said how appreciative he was for the United Way in his own life and urged the community to stand behind the organizationâ€™s efforts to better the lives of those around them.
â€śThe United Way touches us all, whether itâ€™s through individuals, family members or someone we know,â€ť he said. â€śThese are tough economic times, but we live in county and state that gives to good causes â€¦ Working together, I believe we will not only reach our goal, but surpass it.â€ť
After Abrahamâ€™s speech, LaTrell Stokes, Angela Stewart and Mitchell Young presented an agency focus session on the Oktibbeha County 4-H Club.
Young, a Starkville High School junior and 4-H youth member, said he was grateful for the opportunities and lessons 4-H presents.
â€śThe values I have learned through 4-H have made a large impression on my life,â€ť he said. â€ś4-H has made me a better person and I want to thank you for your support.â€ť
Stewart, Miss. 4-H Volunteer Leader Association president, said her organization currently serves 95,683 youths throughout the state and rallied behind the United Wayâ€™s continued support of their efforts.
â€ś4-H has made such a difference in our childrenâ€™s lives,â€ť she said. â€śThe funds we receive from United Way make a difference.â€ť
Concluding the event, Rives said individuals working together is how an impact is made throughout the community.
â€śLike with any sport, every team member plays an important part,â€ť she said. â€śTo help our 16 United Way agencies do the wonderful work they do, it takes everyone in our community working together as one team to raise the necessary funds and to raise awareness about how lives are being changed.â€ť
Rives said those 16 agencies have impacted hundreds of lives through the programs they offer.
â€śAs the campaign progresses, we will be working to inform the public about the work being done by our United Way agencies,â€ť she said. â€śStatistics compiled form the first six months of this year show the significant impact being made in our community and beyond.â€ť
For more information on how to contribute to the local United Way campaign, contact Rives at 662-323-3830 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.