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JBS boosts UW campaign

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe JBS employees Cindy Elsing (center, left) and Allison Demuth (center, right) hand a check to Worthington Area United Way president Jeff Johnson representing the more than $72,000 collected by employees at the Worthington facility.

WORTHINGTON -- Two months ago, board members of the Worthington Area United Way were gearing up for the organization's annual telethon, hoping to kick-start a campaign to reach a $150,000 goal.

On Thursday, United Way board president Jeff Johnson accepted a check from JBS to rocket the organization's thermometer nearly to the top. Employees of the local hog processing facility contributed enough money -- a combined $72,133 -- to put the Worthington Area United Way within just $8,500 of its annual goal.

During a gathering in the JBS training room Thursday afternoon, Johnson joked that he was ready to do some somersaults, but acknowledged he would heed the warnings of the safety banners posted around the room.

"I can't thank you enough for your tremendous commitment to the United Way," Johnson told a gathering of more than 20 JBS employees. The group represented all departments of the plant -- men and women who volunteered to solicit their co-workers for United Way contributions.

"Really, thank you doesn't seem enough, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart," Johnson expressed.

Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce director Darlene Macklin told the group their contribution has helped push the total amount raised thus far to more than $141,500.

"And we're really early in the campaign," she said. In previous years, the United Way campaign has stretched into June or July. This year, the campaign raised its overall goal by $10,000 over the previous year.

Cindy Elsing, JBS safety coordinator, and Allison Demuth, HR coordinator, combined to co-chair the JBS United Way committee this year. In their remarks to employees Thursday, they spoke of how proud they were of the volunteers who solicited donations from employees.

"You guys did a wonderful job," Elsing, a 23-year employee, said to the group.

Jenny Andersen-Martinez, human resources director at JBS, said the employee contributions will be used for a good cause.

"These are dollars that will stay right in our community," she said. "That's what makes this charity, to me, such an important one. You were able to raise nearly half of the money for the entire county here, just out of this plant."

The money was raised one payroll contribution at a time and, thanks to incentives offered by the company, they were able to get some fairly significant donations from employees.

Elsing said that while most employees contributed 50 cents or $1 per week to United Way, there were also those who contributed $2 or $5 a week to the organization. A couple production workers even contributed $10 per week. Most of the management in the company contributed between $5 and $7 per week to the United Way.

Incentives offered to employees for contributions ranged from entry into drawings for $50 Hy-Vee gas cards or $100 Hy-Vee gift certificates to a chance at winning an extra vacation day or VIP parking for a year. Those who contributed $10 per week to United Way received one entry into each of the drawings.

Andersen-Martinez said additional incentives helped boost the total JBS contribution to United Way from $50,000 two years ago to more than $72,000 today.

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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