A Conversation With Two Local United Way Chapters
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Written by Amanda Hagedorn, Corporate Content Writer
In times of crisis, it’s vital for communities to come together. That’s what the United Way is all about. United Way works with nonprofit agencies, volunteers, and businesses to enact change and get people through hard times.
To support local United Way chapters, Dot Foods is currently running our annual fundraising campaign. Every employee donation will be matched 50 cents on the dollar. We spoke to two United Way chapters near Dot Foods Mt. Sterling to learn how donations are helping them serve their communities. Here’s what Karen Walker from Prairieland United Way and Adam Duesterhaus from United Way of Adams County have to say.
What are the biggest challenges that your area has faced during the pandemic?
Karen Walker: We needed a better way for people to ask for help, so we started a helpline in March. Shelter has been the biggest hardship after a local homeless shelter closed—they were unable to provide 24-hour care. We’ve been working with a couple of local agencies to provide temporary shelter as well as utility and rent assistance.
For food, we’ve been blessed with funding from outside sources and agencies. Dot is strongly involved with our food pantries; we’ve seen tremendous grants from your company. 
Adam Duesterhaus: Most of the calls and requests have centered around housing and utilities. Our helpline has already received more calls in 2020 than in all of 2019. We provide funding to help people pay outstanding bills or find more financial stability. 
How has your United Way chapter supported your local area during the pandemic?
KW: Our chapter serves four counties: Jacksonville, Cass, Morgan, and Green. We’ve helped our community get connected with programs through our helpline. Through our COVID-19 Response Fundwe’ve distributed $35,000 to 11 programs, particularly food pantries and the Salvation Army. Every two weeks, we meet with agencies to find out who needs what. We’ve also served about 300 meals at a local soup kitchen. 
AD: The Quincy Chamber of Commerce, City of Quincy, the county board, and other organizations banded together to form the Adams County Together (ACT) COVID-19 relief fund. United Way was chosen to help facilitate relief, since we have an existing model in place through our Quincy Area Partnership for Unmet Needs committee. 
Each year, campaign contributions are distributed to our 19 partner agencies. Since we exceeded our 2019 goal and knew our partners would require more funding this year, we were able to increase the amount of money allocated to agencies. 
Many nonprofits have experienced a dip in donations since the start of the pandemic. Has that been the case with the United Way? 
KW: Our fundraising campaign runs from September to February, so we’ve just started soliciting donations. We expect a drop in contributions this year; however, we actually need to give back even more this year. Our campaign’s theme is United Together, Now More Than Ever. Now is not the time for us to sit back. 
AD: Yes—in fact, many of our partners were unable to hold critical fundraising events because of quarantine and restrictions. To make up for this loss, an increase in individual donations will need to start immediately, or ultimately agencies will have to make hard decisions on whether to continue all their services.
This year, many organizations haven’t been able to hold their usual fundraising events. How has the United Way adjusted their fundraising efforts in response to the pandemic?

KW: We may not be able to have some of the events we normally hold, so we’ve increased our direct appeals. We’ve grown our mass mailings to reach a larger audience and made a campaign video 
and radio commercial. We’re hopeful we can reach more people and broaden awareness.
A huge slice of our donations comes from company fundraising. We’re relying on companies to advocate on behalf of us. That’s why we appreciate how community-minded Dot Foods is. You do a fantastic job supporting us through your fundraising and are always one of our top 20 campaign partners. 
AD: Our area’s current restrictions have forced us to get inventive. We’ve given campaign volunteers many electronic resources and created a video to use for fundraising. Many area workplaces are still conducting their own internal campaigns. The messaging might look different, but the community’s commitment to do what they can for their friends and neighbors in need remains strong. 
How can people support the United Way? 
KW: Any donation makes a difference. Advocacy as well—share our story, the work we do, the agencies we support. For companies like you that match employee donations, really talk about that match; that will help them feel like their donations will really support the community.  
AD: United Way invests in education, financial stability, and health—the building blocks of a strong community. Supporting Adams County through the United Way has never been easier. Anyone can donate online or by texting “GIVE” to 217-636-5212. Every donation helps fund our partner agencies and ensure that vital community programs continue. 
Workplace campaigns are also critical. Our work allows companies to flourish. Dot Foods continues to be a strong advocate, consistently giving contributions from employee donations as well as corporate gifts. By incentivizing employee giving and making the process easy, Dot provides an efficient donor experience.  
Dot Foods employees interested in contributing to the United Way can donate through our current fundraising campaign. Check your email to find more details from your location.