The United Way of Central Virginia kicks off its 2018-19 campaign this week, and this year the campaign is paying particular attention to the counties surrounding Lynchburg.

The campaign kickoff week began Monday in Amherst County and continues today in Campbell County and will hit Bedford County Wednesday, Lynchburg on Thursday and Appomattox County on Friday

“We are headquartered in Lynchburg so it’s easy to become Lynchburg-c entric, but the needs are all over,” CEO Bill Varner said.

“This is an effort to get us introduced deeper in those communities and meet people one-on-one. It’s a smart next step.”

UWCV is a nonprofit organization working to increase the quality of life for those in need in the area. It does this by supporting 26 agencies and 38 programs that address critical needs in each community, including health, education and basic human needs such as making sure residents have access to health care and dental care providers.

One of its biggest initiatives is providing food, clothing and shelter to residents.

“Out of the 240,000 residents in Central Virginia, 33,000 are food insecure, meaning they don’t have timely access to affordable, quality food,” Varner said. “Eight thousand of them are children. One in six children are food insecure.”

Each year the agency holds a fundraising campaign to continue supporting these agencies.

In 2017, UWCV provided services to 60,500 individuals and invested almost $1.5 million in the community, according to UWCV Marketing and Communications Director Olivia Beavon.

Last year, UWCV reached its goal and raised $2.1 million. The goal for this year is to raise $2.2 million; the 2018-19 campaign runs through the end of February.

“If you have a cause that people understand and believe in, they will line up to give you time, money or resources,” Varner said. “We want people to give because they feel it in their heart not because they feel obligated. A lot of people don’t realize how serious the need is until we educate them.”

Houston Crum, director of financial aid at Bedford Christian Ministries, said he was excited UWCV is doing a kick off in each county and focusing its efforts on the specific needs of those counties.

“We are very hopeful that this new campaign format will give members of the community an opportunity to share their good fortune with their needy neighbors,” Crum said. “It’s a way of letting people know a more accurate impact of United Way funds and how they specifically help Bedford County residents.”

Last year the organization received about $16,000 from UWCV. This money was used to pay electricity, water and rent bills for 226 individuals served by the ministry, which provides food, clothing, households and financial assistance to seniors, disabled individuals and low-income working residents in the town and county of Bedford.

“There are a lot of people in Bedford County who see Lynchburg as someplace far off and really don’t have a good idea of the impact the nonprofit organizations in Lynchburg and Campbell have,” he said. ‘A lot of people in Bedford County have to go to Lynchburg and Campbell for services that we don’t provide here.”

Agencies can begin applying for funding in February, and then volunteers will review funding requests and visit with agencies. UWCV will hold meetings in April to see what funding is available, and a final funding recommendation will be made in May 2019. Money for agency programs will be allocated in 12 monthly installments beginning July 1.

Billy Flint, a member of UWCV’s board of directors, said he is feeling optimistic about this fundraising season, especially since Varner came on board last year.

Flint agreed it has been crucial to educate the community on what the nonprofit does and how it funds agency programs.

“The more Central Virginians grasp it … many have the ability to be very generous and if they knew the true story of the agencies and the good works of the United Way, they would give more and that’s our challenge and our mission,” he said.

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

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