John Sellers, this year's United Way fund drive chairman, addresses volunteers at Tuesday's kickoff luncheon. Sellers urged campaign workers that if they keep in mind this year's theme of "Continuing Tradition, Sharing Hope And Fulfilling The Heart -- The United Way," the campaign will be a success.
Staff Photo By Jessica Worth

Rising to the Occasion

United Way campaign chairman confident volunteers will reach $150,000 goal

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

Oct. 1, 2008 - Hopkins County United Way Campaign Chairman John Sellers reminded volunteers why each contribution is vital to the group's annual fund drive during the worker's kickoff luncheon Tuesday at Southwest Dairy Center

Sellers, chosen to lead this year's campaign to raise $150,000 for local agencies because of his "love for this community which he truly values," predicted this year's campaign will be a success despite what some expect will be difficult financial times in the near future.

"This year's campaign will be a success not because of me, but because of you," Sellers said to campaign workers. "What we're hearing on the news makes us all a little nervous, and will make some of our jobs a little more difficult for United Way. But I'm confident you will make this work."

The past two years the fund drive goal has been set at less than $150,000 yet in both years the annual campaign has exceeded that number.

Hopkins County United Way has a long-standing tradition of rising to meet the needs of the agencies it pledges funds to, and in doing so, helping the many people throughout the community served by the agencies.

In 1955, the first campaign goal was set at $29,500. It took the 350 campaign workers a bit longer than anticipated deadline of Oct. 13 to meet the goal. But on Halloween, the first United Fund campaign, as it was called then closed with $131 collected above the stated goal. That first year, 29 North Hopkins residents pledged one day's pay to the campaign and challenged others to do the same. Overall, 108 teachers throughout Hopkins County met the challenge, also pledging a full day's pay.

Over the years, Hopkins County has continued to rise to the occasion to help others through United Way, with only a few campaigns falling short.

Sellers urges all campaign workers to continue that tradition, to "remember what United Way stands for" and the long heritage associated with its giving. While one agency, SAFE-T (Shelter for families in East Texas), is a "newcomer" as a HCUW recipient, many of the others are agencies which have continued to benefit from United Way since the first campaign.

Sellers said some who are loyal contributors have discovered firsthand the indelible role HCUW's recipient agencies play in people's lives, whether due to changes in circumstances or through work with the agencies, or having someone connected to them who benefits from HCUW agencies.

Sellers noted that his son, a Cub Scout, benefits from the funding allocated to Northeast Texas-Southeast Oklahoma Trails Council of Boy Scouts.

A number of the programs help youths, such as Teen Court, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, and Boys & Girls Club. Others benefit families and individuals --?Meal-A-Day, Heritage Outreach Ministry Foundation, Northeast Texas Food Bank, Hopkins County Christian Alliance, Hopkins County Community Action Network and Community Chest. Others, such as Our Place, target special groups, or provide emergency intervention or specialized services such as SAFE-T, Northeast Texas Child Advocacy Center Inc., East Texas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Family Haven and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

"We need to be able to show hope, and I think we provide that for the individuals, families, children and everyone served by those agencies," Sellers said.

He said the point of United Way's annual drive isn't just about meeting a monetary goal -- it's making sure none of those who would be served by the agencies aren't "left out in the dark, that they're not left with no place to be."

Sellers urged campaign workers that if they keep in mind this year's theme of "Continuing Tradition, Sharing Hope And Fulfilling The Heart -- The United Way" and the campaign will surely be a success.

Charlotte Henderson, Hopkins County United Way executive secretary for the past 31 years, offered a special thank you to each of the many campaign workers who faithfully answer the call to serve HCUW campaign, despite the hard work and time involved. She said that while it's not always easy trying to work schedules around jobs and family activities, the dedication of the many people who go out and collect donations and packets is appreciated.

She issued a special thanks to the Pilot Club, whose members have made the United Way one of their pet projects for several years, and noted that Community Chest, like other benefitting agencies, has already designated individuals to work on this year's campaign.

Randal Voss, campaign president, offered a special thanks to Carolyn McKinney and Southwest Dairy Museum for hosting this year's kickoff luncheon.

Weekly report meetings are slated for campaign workers at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Oct. 14, 21 and 28, at the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce.

Anyone needing pledge cards, packets or brochures or who would like to have Sellers speak at a club meeting or business can contact Henderson at 903-885-6829. Donationsmay also be mailed to HCUW campaign headquarters, P.O. Box 735, Sulphur Springs, TX 75483-0735.

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