Agency assisted 40,000 people in parish last year
With record-setting campaigns, Battle for the Paddle growth and organizational expansion in services, United Way of St. Charles marked an impressive year in 2016.
“We had the largest campaign in our organization’s history at a time when most United Ways are happy to breakeven with their past years efforts,” said United Way Executive Director John Dias. “We are very fortunate of the support we get from our community. We had two campaigns – Shell and Valero – that exceeded $1 million.”
UW got more involved in facilitating companies’ volunteer events. It helped coordinate projects involving Dow, Monsanto, Valero, Zachry, Shell, Destrehan High School, RSVP, Waterford III, and SetPoint, as well as Second Harvest, Therapeutic Riding Center, St. Charles United Methodist Church, Killona Community Garden, and The Arc of St. Charles.
This achievement earns the United Way national distinction in growth while other United Ways are reporting level or reduced contributions.
Fiscal growth drives UW outreach, making the organization more able to reach more people in St. Charles Parish directly and through its partners.
United Way also helped fund and start a summer camp for children with disabilities in collaboration with the St. Charles Parish Department of Parks and Recreation and Arc of St. Charles. Also, UW started a Workforce Development Program last year aimed at helping people connect to job building services and potential employers. The primary focus of the UW Workforce Development Program is to assist individuals in improving wages in order to become financially stable.
The School Backpack Meals Program has been expanded to serve seven schools with the newest addition being R.J. Vial Elementary School, bringing the total to 630 children fed every weekend.
United Way funded the Summer Meals Program this summer, as well as funded and started community gardens in Killona and along Paul Maillard Road.
In its second year, the Get Fit United program has proven a popular and well regarded in the community, Dias said.
Some 108 participants to date in the program have collectively lost 1,223.3 pounds.
Established in 2002, Battle for the Paddle continues to show record numbers in participation and attendance with some of the best gumbo and jambalaya cooking teams in the parish as UW’s major yearly fundraiser.
“We look forward to a new location for the Battle for the Paddle this year,” Dias said. “With more than 130 teams registering, we are on target to host the largest event in our organization’s history.”
To accommodate the event’s growth, it has been moved to Edward Dufrense Community Center in Luling this year, leaving it’s longtime site at West Bank Bridge Park in Luling.
Dias also welcomed UW’s strong relationship with Parish Government during weather events.
Additionally, United Way provided grants to local schools for educational programs, including the Destrehan High Handyman Crew and Luling Elementary’s Running Club, and spearheaded construction of a covered riding area for the Therapeutic Riding Center.
Fulfilling its mission, Dias said the United Way will continue to its expand efforts to assist St. Charles Parish where and when needed.
“We also are in the process of working with the St. Charles Humane Society to purchase an animal transportation trailer to evacuate shelter animals and pets of evacuees during storms, as well as hold educational events and mobile adoptions,” he said.
This year’s new additions include “Bike United” on Oct. 7. The program will teach bike safety to third-graders in the parish’s elementary schools. Volunteers are being recruited and undergoing training. As dates are decided, the training sessions will be announced.
Last year, United Way assisted an estimated 40,000 people directly and through its partners in the parish. Dias added this year is already proving to be another successful year for the agency, as well as its partners.
Growing from 28 to 30 partners this year, United Way and its agency partners are making a difference.
“It is a tribute to our community that we had such a good year, but we still have an ongoing goal of ‘zero,’” Dias said. “Zero hungry second-graders, zero cancer patients that could use a little help to get treatment, and zero victims of domestic violence with nowhere to turn. We must always be mindful that at the other end of every donation is a person that needs help.”