United Way announces it raised more than $11 million to aid community

United Way of Greater Chattanooga
photo United Way of Greater Chattanooga

United Way officials announced that they raised $11,079,020 in this year's fundraising campaign, to be distributed to dozens of nonprofit organizations throughout the metro area.

The announcement was made Tuesday evening in the United Way's "Celebrate United" annual meeting at the Waterhouse Pavilion in Miller Plaza downtown.

But United Way President Lesley Stiles Scearce emphasized that money was less important to the group than the work of its volunteers.

"Programs don't change lives, people change lives," Scearce said. "We are here tonight to recognize the people, some in our neighborhoods, some in our congregations, who give, advocate and volunteer on behalf of our community."

She estimated that more than 140,000 people were helped by programs funded in part by the United Way last year.

"These are not just random acts of kindness," she said. "These are strategic investments in our city's greatest resources, our people."

A 2017 advocacy award was presented to the Chattanooga Times Free Press for its seven-part series "The Poverty Puzzle," exploring the reality of poverty in the Chattanooga metro area. The series on Monday was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

A second award was presented to Chattanooga 2.0, the community-wide group working to guarantee all children equal access to quality education.

Russ Blakely, of Russ Blakely and Associates, was honored for his leadership of this year's United Way fundraising campaign.

Mueller Co. was singled out for increasing employee giving by 28 percent and also convincing several of its customers to make donations. Lafayette-based Roper Corp. was also honored for its employees' donations.

The United Way is an umbrella group that raises funds for dozens of nonprofit organizations across the metro area.

According to Scearce, last year the agency awarded funds for some 90 programs run by 45 organizations in several categories including early childhood education, youth development, family stability, and supporting the most vulnerable.

The early childhood education grants included $826,000 to Invest in Children and Youth for their Imagination Library, Project Ready for School, and the Early Childhood Institute; $254,000 to the Chambliss Center; and another $500,000 to organizations including the YMCA, the Pro Re Bona Early Learning Center, the Little Miss Mag Early Learning Center and the Communities in Schools of Catoosa County.

In the youth category, grants included $406,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chattanooga, $364,000 to the Boy Scouts of America Cherokee Area Council, $187,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters, $125,000 to the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians Southern Region, and $258,000 to Girls Incorporated of Chattanooga. Another $407,000 went to nine other organizations.

To support family stability, United Way gave $918,000 to its own programs, including its 2-1-1 Information and Referral Call Center; $115,000 to the AIM Center for mental health support services; $117,000 to Goodwill Industries; $247,000 to the Orange Grove Center; $178,000 to the Helen Ross McNabb Center; $481,000 to the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults; and $145,000 to the Salvation Army, plus an additional $$351,000 to 13 other groups.

In the supporting the most vulnerable category, United Way awarded $216,000 to the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, $196,000 to the Orange Grove Center; $216,000 to the Signal Centers; and $158,000 to the Speech & Hearing Center; plus $198,000 to eight other agencies.

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673, sjohnson@timesfreepress.com, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/noogahealth.