WORTHINGTON - United Way of Nobles County has kicked off its 2019 fundraiser with the hopes of reaching a campaign goal of $196,000. The amount represents an increase of $1,000 over the 2018 goal.

Cindy Elsing, a United Way of Nobles County board member, said the goal is representative of the needs of agencies who applied for financial assistance.

“As our community grows, the need grows,” she said.

While the organization accepts donations year-round, the push is on now for contributions from Nobles County residents. Part of that push includes a fundraising radio auction that begins at 9 a.m. Saturday on all four Radio Works stations: AM730 and FM 93.5, 95.1 and 104.3.

This is the second consecutive year Radio Works has hosted the auction.

“That is a big fundraiser for us,” Elsing said. “They’ve been a fantastic supporter of this.”

Sixteen agencies will benefit from the dollars raised for the 2019 campaign, including a couple of new organizations - Be the Change: Leadership on Purpose and the Active Living Implementation Committee. Other recipients include Junior Achievement, the Nobles County Historical Society, ACE of Southwest Minnesota, ARC of Southwest Minnesota, Worthington Area YMCA, American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Community Connectors, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Love INC, National Alliance for Mental Illness, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, Southwest Crisis Center and Volunteers in Mercy. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is also funded by the United Way of Nobles County, with books purchased for children who reside in the county.

Ivan Parga leads the Be the Change: Leadership on Purpose organization locally. Originally developed as a summer leadership program by Worthington High School graduate Nicole Ektnitphong, the organization seeks to help high school-aged youths develop and strengthen leadership skills.

Parga re-established the youth-led program last December, and has about 15 students consistently attending gatherings. He requested $12,000 from the United Way of Nobles County - money that will be used to fund student development, supplies and programming. Be The Change offers a month-long summer program that will also be funded through United Way.

Catholic Charities, a regular recipient of United Way of Nobles County funds, sought $4,600 in 2019 for its family and individual counseling program, as well as its pregnancy, parenting and adoption program.

“We’re very grateful for the support,” said Bob Tereba, executive director of Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota, based in Winona.

The United Way funds received by Catholic Charities helps offset expenses for licensed social workers to provide counseling services (ccsomn.org), as well as to help fund a 24-hour pregnancy helpline (1-800-222-5859).

“Catholic Charities serves people of all faith and no faith traditions,” Tereba said.

Another new recipient of United Way of Nobles County funding in 2019 is the Active Living Implementation Committee. Formed in response to the county’s Active Living Plan, the committee is working to carry out the goals of the plan. Their current project focuses on providing mobile bike racks.

Jason Brisson, Worthington’s Director of Community and Economic Development, said the United Way funds were sought to purchase three mobile bike racks to use strategically around Worthington during community events. However, funds were secured earlier this year from the Statewide Health Improvement Program thanks to work done by local SHIP Coordinator Cecilia Bofah.

Now, Brisson said the committee is discussing whether to purchase more mobile bike racks, or to instead purchase a fix-it station - a bicycle station filled with an array of tools including a pump for bicycle tires - to be placed near the Beach Nook in Centennial Park.

Each agency that applies for funding from the United Way must be a 501(c) nonprofit, Elsing noted. Requests are made in March, with agencies stating how much money they seek and how those funds will be spent. Those agencies then present their proposal during the United Way’s May budget hearings.

“There aren’t many times that we don’t give people what they need,” Elsing said. “I feel all of the agencies we have this year are strong agencies that are very active in Nobles County. They do a lot for our citizens, whether young, old or in between. They all have excellent programs and we’re helping them maintain their programs and, in turn, helping the community.”