Christmas came early this year for the United Way of Lea County and the non-profit agencies it supports.
Each year, UWoLC and similar United Way chapters around the country reach out to their communities in a massive fundraising drive known simply as “the Campaign.” And in Lea County this year, Campaign – which wrapped up recently – raised a greater percentage of what local non-profits asked for than president and CEO Becca Titus has ever seen.
UWoLC routinely provides funding to a variety of agencies in the county, from the Lea County Commission of the Arts to the Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, Isaiah’s kitchen, Opportunity House, Court Appointed Special Advocates and more. For this year’s campaign, 14 local agencies requested a total of $665,660 in funding.
That’s when the work of Campaign really started. United Way locally, around the country and around the world reaches out annually to businesses and corporations, large and small, asking workers from within the community to give. Additional funding can come from individuals, but the bulk of the finances for United Way Campaigns comes from a community’s businesses.
And, as the smoke cleared and Campaign wrapped up, contributions and pledges to give totaled $613,118, Titus said this week. That represents 92 percent of the funding requested by UWoLC partner agencies.
“We were thinking, ‘What in the world happened?’” Titus said. “We didn’t expect that at all.
“I was really surprised it was that much. We’ve never in my time here been able to fund at 92 percent. That was a very high number.”
For most if not all of the non-profit agencies, UWoLC funding accounts for a significant portion of their annual budget, with some funding coming from state coffers also, depending on the agency. And, with tighter state budgets and the potential for further funding cuts due to the economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way funding becomes even more important to the agencies trying to keep their doors open and help individuals and families in need.
Some of the agencies told Titus, as a matter of course, they plan for less than what they request when putting together budgets. This year, with the increase in donations, those agencies “can breathe a bit easier this year,” Titus said. “They can know they’re not going to have to scramble (for funding) as much.
“One of the non-profits said that’s amazing,” she said. “They said they’d budgeted for $20,000 less than what we’re going to be able to give.”
That was Mike Clampitt, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Hobbs. Like everywhere else, the pandemic has caused a shakeup at his facility. But knowing that extra $20,000 will be available is going to help him sleep a little bit better at night, he said.
The Boys and Girls Club would, in a “normal” year, be operating it’s after-school programs right now with as many as 400 children crowding the facility on East Broadway Street near downtown Hobbs. Instead, a fraction of that number of young people are on hand, taking advantage of the club’s high-speed internet service to do school work online.
“To us, this means we can continue to watch the kids all day, 10 hours a day, while their parents are working or going to school or whatever and keep that cost (to the families) as minimal as we can,” Clampitt said. The allocation this year “keeps us doing what we’re doing for as long as we need to.
“It lets us keep doing what we’re doing when we don’t know what’s going to happen next month or next week,” he said. ““Knowing that money is there is absolutely crucial to us planning ahead and seeing what we can continue to do.”
The community response was particularly surprising this year, given the very economic issues forcing non-profit agencies to tighten their belts, Titus said. And donations to UWoLC will continue to roll in, meaning the group’s partner agencies will probably receive even more money down the road, she said.
“Everyone expected (contributions) to be so much less than in years before, but people gave so much, (local non-profits) will actually be getting more than they got last year,” Titus said. “We are just blessed in this community. It’s so amazing.”
Clampitt said the response from the community to fund the United Way of Lea County doesn’t necessarily come as a shock to him.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and we’ve never been funded with the percentage we got this year,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me about the people of Lea County and Hobbs supporting the United Way the way they do, but it always amazes me.
“We just have that mentality of taking care of each other and everybody pitching in a little bit,” Clampitt said. “Without being able to do face-to-face presentations – and I’ve done a few of those in the past – for Becca and her staff to be able to do what they did is just remarkable.”