United Way in final push

Jerry Dougherty, Tellico Village Volunteer Fire Department fire chief, displays an extrication tool purchased with United Way funding.

United Way of Loudon County’s campaign for $450,000 is mere weeks from the finish line.

As of Dec. 26, slightly more than $330,000 had been collected, Judy Fenton, local United Way executive director. said. The campaign will go through March 31.

“The last dollars in are always the hardest,” Fenton said in an email correspondence. “Some campaigns are up slightly and a few have been down slightly, nothing significant either way. We still have a couple of large campaigns that have not reported. ... We try to have as much in as possible by end of February as we do the agency grants in March.”

Last year’s campaign brought in $440,091.

The effort this year has included LoCoPalooza in May that collected $987, a golf tournament in June that tallied $11,000 and an American Cornhole League-sanctioned tournament in September that raised $2,236 in its second year.

“A new event we are working on is a softball tournament toward the end of March,” Fenton said. “We are just in the planning stage for it.”

Local company and community drives also play a big role in the nonprofit’s collections.

“Tellico Village is typically in the top three accounts,” Fenton said. “Their goal is the same as last year, as is the county goal. I think both will be close. The campaign has been more positive than anticipated. Our community understands that our partners provide critical services and (United Way) is the best way to help the most people.”

Tellico Village this year aimed for $100,000.

Richard Kolasheski, Tellico Village steering committee member, said about $77,000 had been raised as of late December, just days before the Village campaign halted.

“One of the problems we’re looking at is there are a number of people who donated last year who haven’t donated yet and that’s why we’re doing this late push on publicity we’re trying to use to say, ‘Hey, maybe you forgot, but it’s not too late. Get your check in,’ and we’ve had the address to send the checks to. Plus we’ve got that online also that people can use to donate,” he said.

Participation this year was an estimated 16 percent, which also declined from last year’s roughly 19 percent, Kolasheski said.

He could not determine why participation fell short.

“The tax law changed, it increased the personal donation, the personal exemption, so there’s not — people would donate before and they could itemize and they would save taxes,” Kolasheski said. “Now they get a higher deduction so it’s not as important to have deductions to save taxes, so that’s probably (a reason). Charities across the board have seen an impact from that aspect of the tax law. ... We’re getting a little further away and I really don’t know why. We haven’t gone out and surveyed people and said, ‘Hey, why aren’t you donating to the United Way?’”

One agency that has benefited in years past is the Tellico Village Volunteer Fire Department, which last year used $9,400 to purchase a new extrication tool, Jerry Dougherty, fire chief, said.

“We definitely rely on the support from the United Way to buy major rescue type and medical equipment,” he said.

With the 2018-19 campaign, 27 agencies offering 36 programs were funded.