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United Way evolves to meet greater needs

United Way of Chaves County kicked off its yearly donation campaign Monday. The newest member organization, the Community Kitchen, was represented by Matt Hinkle. United Way of Chaves County has been helping local charitable organizations since 1956. (Curtis Michaels Photo)

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Sherry Mumford, Executive Director of United Way of Chaves County, is excited about the future of the organization and it’s capacity to make a difference for non-profit organizations in Chaves County. They had their new campaign kickoff at the Civic Center Monday.

“Our chairs are Ron and Licia Hillman,” Mumford said. “A representative of Community Kitchen will be speaking as they are our only new partner this year.” Matt Hinkle was that representative.
Mumford pointed toward the history of the Hillmans’ work in the community as indicative of what next year might be like.
“The Hillmans have been here 24 years,” she said. “Ron works for Armstrong Energy Corporation as general counsel. Licia is the principal at Berrendo Middle School. They’ve been involved in the community with Chaves County Rodeo Association and Noon Optimists Little League among other things. United Way is fortunate to have the Hillmans representing us.”
They’re wasting no time getting the money to start rolling in.
“This fall, we’re trying to raise half a million dollars,” Mumford said. “Starting the first part of next year we’ll allocate the money out to our 18 partner agencies.”
A little known service of the United way is their telephone hotline.
“Our local United Way office has a 211 line,” Mumford said. “If people dial 211 it rings in our office. People call that number if they’re trying to find services; like who helps with services, who helps with utilities, they might need help with a medical bill. Any time someone has a need.
“We don’t always have answers, but if the service is here and people have told us what organizations and agencies are here then we pass that information along to people who need the help. These organizations don’t have to be members of the United Way to get on the 211 line.”
United Way has been in the area for more than 60 years.
“United Way of Chaves County was established in 1956,” Mumford said. “It’s governed by a board of directors. Right now we have 21 board members.”
There’s a culture of grace among member organizations.
“The member organizations often serve some of the same clients,” Mumford said. “For instance, a child being served by Chaves County CASA might have a parent going through the perpetrator program at the Roswell Refuge. Some of them get services through several agencies. The agencies work well together. They try to help each other out when they can. There’s a lot of compatibility among the agencies.”
It’s always been the partner agencies that benefit from the fundraising.

“In order to apply to be a partner agency, they had to be a 501(c)(3),” Mumford said, “they had to provide a human service. They had to be in existence for at least a year and fulfill a need that we felt was not being met by another agency.
“The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have all been with United Way of Chaves County since the very beginning. We have 18 member organizations now.”
Once a member, each agency would apply for help and the local United Way board would prioritize funds as best they could.
“We try to provide funds to fulfill the greatest needs first,” Mumford said. “Each agency in the past has come before us and done a presentation saying how many people they served last year, what kind of services they provided, how many people on the waiting list, did anyone not get services because they didn’t have money. They listen to all the agencies and decide how to appropriate all the monies.”
While they could not always give all the help an agency needed, United Way of Chaves County has done their best to help everyone they could.
“Every member organization has always gotten money from United Way every year,” Mumford said. “It’s not a guarantee, but historically I don’t know of any years that all the agencies have not gotten part of the allocation.”
This coming year the process is changing. They want to see if they can get better results with a new program.
“Next year, we’re looking towards possibly not having partner agencies,” Mumford said. “Instead, we’re thinking of having organizations submit their needs. So, we can help an agency that needs a roof replaced, or they’re losing food because they don’t have a refrigerator. We’re going to ask agencies to apply for projects like that and totally fund something that they wouldn’t be able to purchase, instead of giving them part of what they need and leaving them to try and make up the balance. So when we raise this money it makes a difference right away. This is in the planning stages. Next year will be our trial year for the program.”
There have been concerns about where local donations go. Mumford assures people frequently that 100 percent of the money raised in Chaves County stays in Chaves County. They have another way to pay United Way Worldwide.
“We are required to give one percent of the money we receive to United Way Worldwide,” Mumford said. “We want to assure donors that none of their money goes to that. Bob Armstrong has set up an account that earns enough interest to pay for that one percent.”
That one percent still helps the local United Way.
“In exchange for that one percent,” Mumford said, “United Way Worldwide gives us credit and pays for our local staff to go to seminars and other functions. Also, United Way Worldwide has relationships with national companies that have local businesses. They act as a liaison for us to connect with these companies.”
An important point that Mumford has to address frequently is about how the money allocations are decided.
“The money stays in Chaves County to help our own neighbors,” she said. “People think United Way Worldwide makes all our decisions and they don’t. We have a local board of directors who decide where the money goes. We have to meet certain guidelines, such as yearly audits, to use their logo. But we decide where the money we raise goes in Chaves County.”
To contact the United Way, call 575-622-4150. To learn of available services in the Roswell area call their hotline at 211.
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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