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DANVILLE — After last year’s annual campaign did not quite meet expectations, United Way of Danville Area officials have assembled for this year a group of community leaders who will revive the approach of taking the fundraising message directly to employers, employees and others in the community.

“We can’t do it all on our own,” said Sherri Askren, executive director and the sole employee of organization’s Danville office. “This is really needed. This has inspired our whole campaign for me.”

Last year, the agency raised $470,000; this year, the newly assembled campaign committee has set a goal of $600,000.

The group of volunteers will be going into the community over the next few months talking with employers, employees and other individuals about giving to United Way.

Askren said this approach has been used in the past and has been very successful.

The campaign is being led by two volunteer co-chairs: former state Rep. Chad Hays, now the executive director of Crosspoint Human Services, and Mary Surprenant, co-owner of the RE/MAX Ultimate real-estate office.

“I accepted the challenge of co-chairing the campaign because I’ve seen firsthand, both working in human services and the legislature, how important these dollars are to lending a helping hand to those most in need,” Hays said. “The United Way is pivotal in terms of assisting the agencies that it supports. The services range from helping seniors to adolescents to those with developmental disabilities and mental health issues to victims of domestic violence and homelessness.”

Surprenant, who owns and operates the RE/Max Ultimate office with her husband, Auston, said she’s grateful for the opportunity to help lead the charge with the United Way fundraiser this year and rekindle excitement and purpose back into the campaign.

Members of the campaign committee have specific groups they will be targeting in coming weeks, including companies and businesses that give; employees at various workplaces who give individually; leadership donors who have given over $500 in the past; and individual donors who don’t fit in other categories, as well as a small-business division and Western Indiana division, where the local agency does work as well.

“I think that’s a model that, in a very real way, enlists the support and efforts of leaders in the community as well as individuals who have been staunch supporters of the United Way and have had tremendous success in the past,” Hays said, adding that all the data indicates more success for the campaign when volunteers are allowed to take the message directly to employers and employees. “The giving is much higher, so that’s a real focus this year, asking employers for the United Way volunteers to come in and make the appeal to their employees.”

Askren said the agency will also be putting together a strategic plan to guide the local office into 2020 and beyond, so they’re seeking feedback from all donors on what they believe are the biggest needs in the Danville area that the agency might not be addressing now.

She said the United Way can’t be all things to all people, though, so it is looking for focus.

And in the meantime, the newly assembled team of volunteers is focusing on executing a successful campaign that can provide funds for various needs in the community.

Again this year, the agency is doing a car giveaway in partnership with Carmack Car Capitol in Danville. Through the donation incentive program, employees in local workplaces who pledge more than $2 per week of their paycheck to the United Way have the chance to win a new vehicle or $20,000.

Askren said that giveaway may have been what saved the campaign last year, so it will be a great help again this year. She said even the smallest contribution from individuals can make a big impact when those donations are pooled.

“We are inspired. We feel like our community needs help, and every little bit adds up,” she said. “But we expect to have a very strong campaign this year.”

In addition to the co-chairs, this year’s campaign committee includes Gardner Peck and Tom Neal leading the employee division; Fred Faulstich and John Shane heading the leadership division; Simphi Lenover targeting residential givers; Linda Ireland heading the small and special business division; Dave Stone coordinating the Vermilion County government division; and Muff Rennick and Denise Crowder leading the western Indiana division.

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