The landscape of not-for-profit groups in Lea County would be very different today without United Way.
The Lea County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) wouldn’t be helping as many children.
Light of Lea County couldn’t provide monetary assistance to cancer patients to get them to the treatments they need to stay alive.
Not as many children would have the opportunity to experience the joy of creating at the Lea County Center for the Arts.
If those possibilities don’t sit well, there’s still a couple of weeks to do something about it during the 2021 United Way Fundraising Campaign going on right now through the end of October.
“United Way is a helper,” said Becca Titus, CEO and President of United Way of Lea County. “I don’t think any agencies are solely funded by us. But, without the funding from us, it definitely hurts the non-profits.”
The current fundraising campaign – #ProjectYOU – kicked off Sept. 1 and will wrap up Oct. 31. At least, the active collection of funds for the next budget year ends on Halloween. For 15 local non-profit agencies, that’s when the waiting begins.
United Way wants a firm number on pledges for the coming year by that Oct. 31 date so the 25-member committee who decide how the funds are allocated can start its work on Nov. 9, Titus said. But the agency continues to accept donations year round.
The target goal for this year is $1 million, Titus said. And there are several ways to donate: online, through payroll deduction at some companies and, new this year, text-to-give, an idea dreamed up by local campaign coordinator A.J. De Los Santos. Text-to-give is meant to be a catch-all method of donating for individuals whose workplace doesn’t offer the other methods of pledging.
“A lot of companies do paycheck donations,” Titus said. “That’s an easy way. But what about the businesses who don’t have the capacity?
“We’re trying to say we want our message to say, ‘No amount is too small to give,’” she said. “We wanted to make it available to every person in the county, to be able to give, to give on their own terms how ever they chose to do so.”
With both Titus and De Los Santos new on their jobs with United Way this year, they really can’t compare donations this year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic with previous years, Titus said. United Way in the past spends the weeks leading up to and during the campaign visiting local businesses, making their pitch and urging employees to donate, a practice moved to the virtual world this year, again due to COVID-19.
Donations are “trickling in,” Titus said. “And we’ve probably done 25 [Zoom] presentations so far, throughout the county. We are, like everybody else, trying to make the very best of all of this.”
But where does that money go? And how important are those allocations, particularly this year in the wake of COVID?
“That funding is one of our largest funding sources we receive,” said Megan Gallegos, CASA executive director for Lea County. Her agency helps at least 500 people – 300 of them children – with everything from appearances in court to offering a safe place for visitation in child custody disputes.
“It is crucial to the continuance of programs and to helping the children, through our programs in Lea County, to live in a safe environment,” she said. “Their funding is crucial to continuing these programs in Lea County.”
Dana Ankerholz, secretary and long-time volunteer with Light of Lea County, agreed. Her group provides gasoline money to help about 50 individuals annually undergoing cancer treatment get to and from where they need to be, buys groceries to keep them fed and, on a limited basis, even helps out with utility payments.
This is the first time in a couple of years Light of Lea County has applied for consideration of a funding allocations, Ankerholz said. But, in previous years, United Way funding has represented fully one-quarter of the money Light of Lea County provides its clients.
The Lea County Center for the Arts in downtown Hobbs provides after school arts programs for school-age children. Without the funding from United Way allocations, LCCA wouldn’t be able to offer those programs free of charges, Doug Levy, the executive directors, said.
“They learn about art, theater, music, all that fun stuff,” Levy said. “We don’t charge the parents or the students anything to take those classes due to the United Way partnership.
“The Art Center wouldn’t be viable without the United Way funding,” he said. “A couple of grants from New Mexico Arts is helping, but United Way is what kept our electricity on, our water going, all that stuff during COVID.”
Events that bring in money to the agencies – fundraisers, golf tournaments, art shows and gallery openings – were cancelled this year due to COVID-19. And new memberships to the LCCA are also down.
That money still has to come from somewhere. Again, that’s where United Way comes in.
“We feel like we need to go above and beyond for those agencies,” Titus said. “They’re the ones that help the people.
“This is what United Way does, this is how we help,” she said. “We are the umbrella for our agencies, agencies that have lost all their fund-raisers this year as well.”
TO DONATE to the 2021 fundraising campaign, contact Titus at the United Way office at 320 N. Shipp St., Suite B, in Hobbs, or call (5750 397-2203. To access the Text-To-Give platform, visit the United Way of Lea County Face-book page and click on the top banner. Donations may be made to the general campaign fun or designated to go to the non-profit agency of the donors choice.