DANVILLE — While CASA of Vermilion County is currently serving 67 abused and neglected boys and girls, officials said that's only a fraction of the 300 or so local children who are in the foster care system each year.
"There's a huge need for more advocates," Executive Director Paul Gallagher said, adding a $15,000 allocation from the United Way of Danville Area will allow his organization to recruit, train and supervise more volunteers. "That's extremely critical in terms of being able to make a positive impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in our community."
Now in its 85th year, the local United Way campaign officially kicked off this week. It is scheduled to wrap up on Oct. 31, but may be extended if businesses and organizations need more time to schedule presentations or collect pledges.
Officials hope to raise $710,000, said Mark Stutsman, the drive's general chairman. Of that amount, $520,112 will be disbursed to support 35 programs run by 20 area organizations, while the remainder will go toward administrative and other expenses.
Once again, officials decided to award funding to specific, outcome-based programs that meet the organization's mission of improving people's lives in the areas of education, financial stability and health. That way, donors can see exactly where their contributions are going.
Executive Director Jeanne Mulvaney said officials were pleased to award a first-time allocation of $5,000 to a youth mentoring program run by Fountain County Mentoring Inc. in Covington, Ind.
"A large portion of our workforce (in Vermilion County) lives in Indiana and works here or visa-versa," she said. "When we've talked to the folks over there, they've asked, 'How are you serving us?' Now we can answer that more strongly."
She also said the United Way's Indiana Association has offered to match some donations to programs in that state.
Throughout the campaign, Stutsman — who has been involved with the local United Way for 15 years and will step up as the board chairman in November — said officials plan to extend their gratitude to all of the businesses, organizations and individuals who have made the campaign successful over the past 8 decades.
"If you ask people in Vermilion County to help a cause, they've always stepped up," he said, adding that's happened even in tough economic times.
Mulvaney agreed, and pointed out that last year, the agency started 2012 short of its goal. But thanks to a final push by campaign co-chairs Mike Hulvey, Pat O'Shaughnessy and Rick Rotramel, the goal was exceeded by $9,766.
Stutsman said officials also plan to emphasize that campaign contributions benefit the entire community, not just those who directly receive services from the United Way agencies.
Gallagher agreed. "Studies have shown that children in foster care are half as likely to graduate from high school. They're three times as likely to be arrested, and they're more likely to have behavioral problems. Studies have also shown that when you put them in a permanent, loving home, it reduces those statistics."