Butler County United Way asked residents how they think their charitable donations should be spent.
On March 5, the organization sent out the first of three waves of a survey asking participants to rank different issues by their level of importance and asking them to select specific areas that Butler County United Way (BCUW) should concentrate its efforts on for the upcoming year.
Pam Cottle, vice president of operations at BCUW, said that they plan to release the survey again on April 1 and May 1, spanning a three-month-long period and trying to catch the attention of as many community members as possible. Roughly 27,000 people received the survey through email from BCUW. BCUW now runs a year-round fundraising campaign, but its fiscal year begins on July 1, so the survey results will be assessed in the last few months of the 2018-19 year.
Cottle said they will determine “common threads” in the results to see how people perceive BCUW as an organization and to assess which of three “impact areas” community members focus on. Those three impact areas, used by United Way Worldwide, are education, health, and financial stability.
This is the first time a survey such as this one, has been done locally in several years. Vice president of community impact Krystal Tipton said BCUW values the community’s opinion and wants to hear its thoughts on the organization’s future activities.
This is also the first year that Oxford has been affiliated with BCUW. Oxford used to have its own United Way branch, the United Way of Oxford, Ohio, and Vicinity. In February 2018, United Way of Oxford merged with Butler County United Way to reduce administrative costs and open up more funds for partner agencies in the Oxford area, according to the 2018 annual report.
“The purpose of the survey is to ensure that BCUW is serving the county in the best way possible. We’re going to hear from the community, look to improve and see what we can do better,” Tipton said. “How do we shape our future work here at [Butler County] United Way?”
Tipton said the three concentrations are “the building blocks of life” and the three main pillars that United Way Worldwide focuses on. BCUW partners with different agencies that offer services in the three areas and funds programs that can benefit the community. Last year, funded programs received $935,950, according to the BCUW website.
“Through education, you have a good start to graduate on time, go on to college, go on to be self-sufficient, go on to make a wage,” Tipton said. She also emphasized, “making sure individuals and families have access to healthcare and healthcare systems” and “making sure there’s financial education around for the families.”
Agencies that received funding from the United Way of Oxford, have now partnered with BCUW, such as the Family Resource Center, the Talawanda Oxford Pantry and Social Services (TOPSS), Oxford Free Clinic, Oxford Literacy Team, Oxford Seniors and several others.
Amy Macechko, previously a board member for United Way of Oxford, now sits on the board for BCUW. As the health and wellness coordinator for Talawanda school district, she possesses a great interest in the Oxford agencies BCUW partners with and the impact those funds have on local programs.
“Oxford is a part of Butler County, and we (BCUW) are very committed to keeping that mission alive here in Oxford,” Macechko said. She wants to “ensure… that that mission is very applicable and supportive of Oxford area residents.”
Numerous agencies and programs in the community support Oxford residents and several of those agencies claim that they couldn’t have done it without BCUW. Marilyn Sasser, executive director of Oxford Free Clinic, says United Way’s funding has “gone a long way to helping our community become healthier.”
Oxford Free Clinic receives $5,000 annually from BCUW and uses those funds to pay for patient medication and medical testing, Sasser said. When the Oxford Free Clinic opened up in 2006, it aimed to help “uninsured, low-income people who were using the emergency room as their doctor with no ways or means of ever paying the bill.”
A majority of the patients who use the Oxford Free Clinic have chronic illnesses such as asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes. Sasser said that with the help of BCUW, those patients can receive their medication and medical testing “without having to make those decisions” between basic necessities like food and medical assistance.
“We want our community to be better. Eighty-five percent of our patients work, but they work low, minimum wage jobs, and then they have a chronic health condition that requires monitoring every three months and expensive drugs,” Sasser said. “They couldn't do it without us, and we couldn’t do it without United Way.”
Certain programs at the Oxford Senior Center also couldn’t happen without the help of BCUW. Jeanne Glaser, the operations administrator at Oxford Seniors, said that the $28,800 they receive from BCUW goes directly to outreach services, transportation services, and adult day programs.
“We definitely value the support,” Glaser said. “It’s funding we need to keep these programs going, and by the sheer number of people involved in these programs we know it’s a value to the community.”
Another popular program is the Super Summer Readers program, run by the Oxford Literacy Team. For two weeks at the end of June, local students can participate in various activities related to literacy, listen to community presenters and receive around 20 free books at the end of the program.
President Rebecca Howard said that advocating for literacy for local students and families is the number one goal of the Oxford Literacy Team, which wouldn’t be possible without funding from BCUW. After a grant ran out about four years ago, BCUW began contributing to the Oxford Literacy Team and now supplies approximately 40% of their annual funding, Howard said.
“United Way’s support has been life-saving for us. Now that Oxford and Butler County have merged, we have continued to get amazing, wonderful support. Butler County has been absolutely supportive since the merger.”
Both Rebecca Howard with the Oxford Literacy Team and Jeanne Glaser with Oxford Seniors have high hopes for the future of United Way and the merge between the Oxford and Butler County branches. Glaser said she likes the idea of a “strong base” to help with continued funds, and Howard said Butler County is “stepping up and making sure Oxford doesn’t feel left behind with these changes.”
For Tipton and others at the newly merged BCUW, the community comes first. “It’s our goal to be a collaborator — to pull individuals to the table to talk about the issues, address them and find solutions moving forward. We have to work in a collective effort to do that — working together to have a greater impact.”
To provide your input on Butler County United Way’s future activities, click here to access the community survey. You can also sign up to volunteer, advocate or donate at https://www.bc-unitedway.org/.