United Way of Marquette County campaign up and rolling

Community leaders and volunteers gathered at the Peninsula Medical Center in Marquette for the kickoff of the United Way of Marquette County’s 75th annual fundraising campaign. The organization raises funds for 30 partner agencies including the Women’s Center in Marquette and Dial Help Crisis Hotline. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — A lot of things have changed since the United Way of Marquette County started fundraising in the area 75 years ago, but the fact remains that there will always be people in need.

Dozens of business owners, community leaders and volunteers attended an event at the Peninsula Medical Center in Marquette to celebrate the organization’s kickoff to its 2018-2019 fundraising campaign, as well as its 75th anniversary of fundraising efforts, hosted by this year’s co-chairs Glenn Sarka and Shawn Beckman.

“There has been an economic boom in Marquette County in recent years,” Beckman said. “But the need is not going away. That is why this organization and our partner agencies are so important.”

The goal this year is to raise $400,000 for the United Way’s 30 local partner agencies, Sarka said, but they hope to raise more.

Traditionally a large source of funding for the United Way has been the Workplace Campaign, in which area employers allow and encourage their employees to give year-round via payroll deduction.

“What makes it such a good source is because it’s consistent. Ten dollars automatically every two weeks for a year is easy for the person contributing, and it makes more of a difference than $20 here or $20 there,” Sarka said.

“And you get a statement at the end of the year detailing your donations,” Beckman added.

Sarka said the workplace payroll deduction source of funding has declined in recent years especially with large employers like the Empire Mine closing, which has caused a ripple effect for businesses around the county.

“We all know someone that these fundraising efforts have helped,” Sarka said.

United Way of Marquette County partner agencies are varied in the services they provide, but they all share the organization’s core purpose of “fighting for the health education and financial stability of every person in every community.”

“Many of these agencies are small enough that they cannot afford to fundraise for themselves,” Beckman said. “That is why the United Way is so important, because we can go out and do the fundraising for them.”

From agencies like the Retired Senior Volunteer Program — where seniors are matched with volunteer opportunities and programs developed to meet the needs of seniors — to the Women’s Center, from Cancer Care of Marquette County to Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit housing organization that partners with future and current homeowners to build “simple, decent, and affordable housing for low to very low-income families,” and everywhere in between, the United Way makes the difference.

Marquette County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Mike Shimon said his organization has partnered with the United Way since its inception in 1993, and the bond has been mutually beneficial ever since.

“Just being associated with them helps us. It helps us expose our program, helps us be able to get a little funding from them,” Shimon said. “What we get helps us go into the pool to help us sustain our effort.”

Habitat’s effort, Shimon said, has resulted in building four to six new homes in the county per year, historically, but the focus has shifted.

“This last year we shifted from just doing just new construction to where we will build one or two new homes a year, so we still tweak that market, but we have also focused on a repairs program,” Shimon said. “We are trying to reach the low-income families that own their home that might need a furnace, that might need a roof, that might need some windows fixed. But it’s for safety things that need to be done and there are a lot of families that fit that role.”

For more information on the Marquette County United Way’s 2018-2019 funding campaign or its partner agencies, visit them on the web at unitedway@uwmqt.org or contact them via email at unitedway@uwmqt.org or by phone at (906)226-8171.