For a moment, Mary Ramos said, picture what Kilgore would look like if not for the United Fund and the charities that benefit from its fundraising efforts every year.
There would be more hungry children, she said. There would be more people in need of shelter, in need of help in many ways.
“We really try to make this a very productive avenue to get what we need to serve these agencies in the area,” she told United Fund's 2017 Pacesetters, the individuals and businesses whose early contributions form the base of the fundraising campaign's annual drive.
This year, United Fund has a set an open-ended goal – $80,000-plus – and selected 11 charities to receive the fruits of the volunteer organization's labors this fall.
To fully appreciate the campaign's mission, co-president Jessica Holmes said, a person needs to sit on the group's Allocation Committee and hear, firsthand, what local nonprofits are doing on behalf of people in and around Kilgore using the dollars given to United Fund by local contributors.
“It's so eye-opening,” Holmes said. “These agencies need it.”
United Fund's 2017 beneficiaries include Because I Care, Boys & Girls Club of Rusk County – Kilgore Unit, East Texas Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, East Texas Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, East Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates, East Texas Literacy Council, East Texas Treatment Center, Habitat for Humanity, Helping Hands of Kilgore, Friends of Partners in Prevention and Parenting Resource Center.
Ursula Plaisance, executive director of Helping Hands of Kilgore, offered frontline testimony on the fundraisers' impact.
“Picture this,” she said, quoting United Fund's 2017 campaign theme: “What a great thing it will be when we can eradicate hunger in Kilgore, Texas.”
For 26 years, Plaisance said, the Kilgore Ministerial Alliance outreach has been using United Fund dollars in addition to its other donor-revenues to serve people in need in and around Kilgore.
“We're bridging the meal gap,” she added, “by fighting hunger and feeding hope in our community by filling the basic needs of our clients,” supplying food every 30 days in emergency situations for people in Kilgore, Gregg County and a part of Rusk County located within six miles of the city limits.
In addition to groceries and other supplies, Helping Hands is focused on becoming a resources for other resources, pointing its clients toward local services.
“We're always trying to find the resources to help our locals because there's a lot of need out there,” Plaisance said. “We always strive to be good stewards of our dollars that are donated and try to stretch as far as we can. We want to touch their lives in a way that impacts them, that they take home to their families and that touches the community.
“The difference we're making in people's lives and the success stories have been awesome.”
Learn more about Helping Hands at HelpingHandsKilgore.org. To contribute to United Fund, call co-president Merlyn Holmes at 903-736-4265.
Follow the Kilgore News Herald for updates on upcoming United Fund events including Nightmare on Main Street (Oct. 27), a wine tasting and holiday shopping event in the Texas Broadcasting Museum.