United Fund gets off to strong start

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“We all deserve to have somebody be a voice for us. All children deserve to have a safe and permanent home, and that’s what our volunteers seek to do for them.”

East Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates recruits and trains volunteers to stand beside children in their darkest hours, Shelly Smith said Friday. It gives volunteers the resources they need to make a difference in the community and in the lives of the people who live in it.

Just like, she added, all the Kilgore United Fund Pacesetters gathered in Meadowbrook Golf & Event Center Friday: “Your donations help agencies thrives and fulfill their missions.”

Smith, director of East Texas CASA, was the local fundraising campaign’s featured speaker at this year’s kick-off event, spotlighting those individuals, businesses and organizations who’ve made an early contribution to the local drive.

Already, United Fund Co-President Jessica Holmes said Friday, the 2018 campaign has amassed $27,000 of the year’s $60,000 goal.

“We’re really proud of our United Fund and our campaign this year,” she said. Though previously linked to national United Way efforts, “We parted ways with them and became United Fund to keep more of the funds local and not part of the national campaign.”

In addition to recruiting locals to give one-time donations or regular contributions toward the drive’s 2018 goal, there will be other one-off fundraisers to supplement the year’s target, Holmes said. Proceeds will be divided between 11 nonprofits at work in Kilgore.

“It’s truly astonishing to hear each of these nonprofits’ needs, struggles and their triumphs,” said Holmes, chairing the drive with co-president Charles Robinson and a volunteer board.

CASA has been operating since 1992.

“In that time we have served anywhere from 300 to 400 children a year,” she said. “Our sole purpose and mission is to recruit and train volunteers to work with children who have been abused, neglected and removed from their homes in difficult situations and provide them with an advocate.

“Our volunteers, our shining lights and our voices in that situation, they watch them, they protect. The report and the statistical numbers are not going to talk about that volunteer who went and stayed in the home of a child whose parents committed suicide,” or the volunteer who made monthly drives to Dallas to checkup on a child in treatment or the one who took a child for regular dental check-ups: “Those are the things our volunteers do.”

East Texas CASA will hold its first ‘Lunch & Learn’ in Kilgore at noon Oct. 23 at Kilgore Chamber of Commerce.

“Come see us,” Smith said: “We’ll buy you lunch and tell you more in detail about what we do and how you can become a CASA volunteer.”

Following interviews this fall, 2018 Kilgore United Fund beneficiaries include Because I Care, Boy Scouts of America, East Texas Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, East Texas Child Advocates, East Texas Literacy Council, East Texas Treatment Center, Friends of Partners in Prevention, Kilgore Boys & Girls Club, The Fuller Center for Housing, Kilgore Helping Hands and Parenting Resource Center of East Texas.

“Each of these organizations tugs at a heartstring,” Holmes said, encouraging the Pacesetters to give of their time to the worthy causes, in addition to the valuable dollars they contribute through the fundraiser: “They’re always so grateful when they get the check at the end of the year. They’re excited because they can pay the light bill, or they’re excited because they can pay somebody’s salary.

“I hate to ask for money, but I love to do it because it helps these organizations.”

Friday’s luncheon also included the unveiling of Kilgore United Fund’s new website which adds an online donation option for supporters. To learn more or to contribute to the drive through the Web, log on to KilgoreUnitedFund.com.

Platinum Pacesetters – those who gave an initial $1,000 or more to the 2018 drive – include Orgill, Citizens Bank and Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin.

At the Gold level, contributing $500-$999 early, Pacesetters include Cherisa & Sammy York, Patterson Kilgore, Citizens National Bank, Express Employment Professionals, the Crain Foundation and Laird Insurance Agency.

With an early donation of $250-$499, 2018’s Silver Pacesetters are Bob Davis Sales, Rockey Johson of Denny’s, Virginia & Terry Booker, Elsa & Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck, Vicki & Jackie Clayton of The Back Porch and Rocco DeSantis (DDS).

Bronze contributors of between $100-$249 are: Because I Care, Brinda & Bill Maxwell, Charlotte Mobbs of Mobbs Real Estate Group, East Texas Literacy Council, East Texas Lumber, Emily Arp of Edward Jones, ETCADA, Falcon Resources, Jessica & Greg Holmes, Ingle Compressor, Jan Wylie, Jo Maxwell of JOMAX, Katie Smith, Kilgore Pest Control, East Texas Treatment Center, Linda Melton, Evelyn & Lloyd Bolding, Megan Hamner (DDS), Merlyn Holmes, Parenting Resource Center, Carla & Pat Nault, Randy Renshaw, Roman Roberson (All American Machine Shop) and Steve Davison of DACO Interests.

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