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United Way telethon, community event slated for Tuesday

WORTHINGTON -- The United Way of Nobles County hopes to raise more than $6,000 Tuesday night during the organization's annual telethon and community celebration.

The United Way, which raises money for 25 non-profit agencies within the county, has an overall fundraising goal of $150,000 this year -- a $10,000 increase over last year's goal.

United Way president Jeff Johnson said the new goal was set because there is more need among agencies.

Many of those who seek funding have been affected by state and federal budget cuts.

"There's so much need in our county," Johnson said. "As long as they meet the qualifications, we award what funds we can."

As is always the case, there were more requests than what the United Way was able to provide funding for, although Johnson said they did their best to help out as many organizations as possible.

Applications submitted to the United Way this year contained funding requests totalling approximately $197,000, he added.

On Tuesday, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. in the Worthington High School gymnasium, the United Way will be raising money through food sales and a silent auction, and will take pledges over specially created phone lines at 372-2238 or 372-2241.

There will also be vendors displaying an array of merchandise that evening, with a portion of their proceeds going to the United Way.

A barbecue meal with chips, pop and a cookie will be sold for $5 throughout the evening.

United Way board members have lined up a long list of items for the silent auction, including gift cards and baskets, a stay at the Holiday Inn, casino stays, trips to Deadwood, S.D., and a traditional Thanksgiving meal courtesy of Hy-Vee. A special telephone line (372-2227) will be set up just for silent auction bidding.

"Give generously," encouraged Johnson. "These are great organizations and they are serving our county ... and the money stays here. There are so many worthwhile organizations that need our help, and we're doing our best."

Throughout Tuesday evening's telethon and celebration, Kay Prunty dancers will provide entertainment, and radio personalities Matt Widboom and Chad Cummings of U.S. 104 will serve as emcees. The entire event will be broadcast live on Worthington Cable 3, U.S. 104 and

The 20-member volunteer United Way board will be busy taking pledges over the phone lines, serving food and helping behind the scenes to make the evening a success.

Johnson said while the goal for the evening is $6,000, he'd sure like to see it surpassed.

Three new agencies were selected to receive United Way funds this year, including Love INC (In the Name of Christ), the Nobles County Historical Society and Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.

Other agencies reach people of all age groups, from We Care Day Care and Junior Achievement to the Worthington Area YMCA and Lutheran Social Services' senior nutrition program.

Thi Synavone, an advocate at the Southwest Crisis Center, said funding they receive from the United Way helps cover emergency expenses for the non-profit agency that serves residents of Nobles, Rock, Pipestone, Jackson and Cottonwood counties.

"The state funding pays for salaries, building expense and phones, but they only give us $600 a year for emergency funding," said Synavone. That doesn't go far, especially when emergency money may be used to transport victims to safety, pay for a bus ticket, or even purchase shoes for a victim and her children if they had to escape from an abuser.

At We Care Day Care in Worthington, director Jamie Bruns said the money they receive from the United Way goes to families who aren't able to access financial assistance through the county to help pay for daycare. Thanks to the United Way contribution, which they've received for many years, they are able to provide a discount of 25 cents off per hour, per child, for those families that qualify.

Speaking bluntly, Worthington Area YMCA director Andy Johnson said without the United Way funding, there are programs that simply wouldn't happen at the local facility, from youth mentoring to scholarship assistance.

"The funding that we receive is solely used ... for the financial assistance program and scholarships, and it also provides some programming subsidy," Johnson said. The YPals program is subsidized with United Way funding, and summertime swimming lessons for low-income, at-risk youth is also a benefactor.

"(United Way money) is a major piece and it's very important," he added. "What's so great about the United Way is you get to help so many people in so many different ways."

At Sanford Hospice, social worker Kathy Fransen said their contribution from United Way offsets some of their expenses, from bereavement services and education programs to some of the integrative therapy they offer.

"We are a nonprofit organization and many of the services that we offer are not reimbursed by Medicare or insurance," Fransen said. "To supplement those expenses, we really depend on United Way or fundraisers."

The telethon, silent auction and food sales Tuesday night raise just a small portion of the overall funds collected by the United Way. Most of the donations come in through employee pledge cards taken to businesses throughout the county in September.

Since the 2012 campaign began, the United Way of Nobles County has raised $30,495.61 toward its goal.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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