United Way kicks off annual campaign

Friday, September 21, 2012
United Way of Bourbon County Board of Directors President Jared Leek speaks to attendees of the United Way kickoff breakfast Thursday morning at the Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center Fort Scott Community College following a prize drawing. Also pictured is United Way board member Gina Findley.(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)

Jared Witt offered some thoughts on how people can live better lives and the benefits of helping others during the kick-off breakfast for the United Way of Bourbon County's 2012-13 campaign Thursday morning at Fort Scott Community College.

Witt, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, is chairman of this year's 60th annual United Way campaign in Bourbon County. The campaign theme is "People Helping People."

"And that's exactly what I'm doing; I'm trying to rally us all together so these great agencies can do their work," he said.

Jared Witt, pastor of First Presbyterian Church and chairman of this year's United Way campaign, was also the keynote speaker for the organization's kickoff breakfast held Thursday morning at Fort Scott Community College.(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)

Witt, the keynote speaker, asked the audience to think about what they have accomplished in life and to ask themselves, "Do I like who I'm becoming as a person?"

"All of us want to live a life that matters," he said.

Witt used various studies and other sources of information to support his talk on life lessons and the tips he provided for living a better life.

Witt urged attendees to "divide your life into chapters and you will find your life more rewarding." Other advice included, "Beware of too much introspection," "You can't control other people," and "Lean toward risks," as people who look back on their lives often regret not taking risks during their lives while people who do are not as regretful.

"And that's why we're here today," he said. "Generous people are happier," he said. He added that their lives are happier and more satisfying, "even if they're not always easy.

"People who offer help experience dramatic improvements in quality of life," he said.

Witt said "we have 15 great partner agencies" this year. Those include American Red Cross Midway-Kansas, Keyhole Youth Center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Ministerial Alliance Hospitality Fund, Bourbon County Senior Citizens, Mother to Mother Ministry, Boy Scouts Ozark Trails Council, Safehouse Crisis Center Inc., Care to Share/The Sharing Bucket, Southeast Kansas Respite Services Inc., Bourbon County 4-H, The Salvation Army, Kansas Legal Services, Tri-Valley Developmental Services and United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas.

The United Way campaign began Thursday and continues through the fall. Packets containing information on the new campaign and donating to the organization were recently distributed to area businesses. The organization receives donations from businesses and individuals, but "our biggest source of revenue is payroll deduction," Witt said.

"That's my challenge to the community to help us meet our goal," he said.

Witt was introduced by his brother, Jordan Witt, vice president of the United Way of Bourbon County Board of Directors. Jordan also introduced and recognized the 16 members of the United Way board of directors, as well as the campaign's sponsors.

Board President Jared Leek said when he first became involved with the group, he wasn't sure of its purpose, but he now encourages people to "open your hearts and support the United Way." Leek also recognized the partner agencies that will benefit from the fundraising campaign.

"The money stays in Bourbon County; every dollar," Leek said. "Some agencies may not be housed in the county, but allocated funds help services in the county."

The event also included the presentation of the colors, recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer led by Dale Cummins of Cherry Grove Baptist Church.

Those attending also viewed a 10-minute video titled "Change for a Dollar," which follows the journey of a homeless man as he affects multiple peoples' lives with just $1. The short film, which has been circulating on the Internet, drew an emotional response from some audience members and was met with applause.

Fort Scott High School graduate Kendal Sinn is the director of photography and editor for the film.

"That just goes to show that whatever you can give will help," Leek said following the video.

A drawing for various prizes concluded the event.

The financial goal for this year's campaign is $100,000. The organization met its goal of $104,000 last year.