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United Way campaign kicks off





The week's delay in kicking off the United Way of Ellis County Campaign 2012 because of an electrical outage at the Smoky Hill Country Club didn't dampen enthusiasm.

However, it did create some scheduling conflicts for Gary Aufdemberge, board of directors chairman and Derek Gerstner, the 2012 campaign chairman.

"No board that I've ever been associated with works as hard as this board does," said Jason Rauch, executive director. "This group is a unique, a fantastic, group of people."

Rauch introduced Rachel Albin, who will take on her duties as administrative assistant on Monday.

John Scheck, past president of the board of directors, presented Gerstner's speech.

"The theme this year is building bridges. We build bridges every day in everything that we do. From the United Way standpoint, we are trying to be the bridge between ourselves and the agencies that we serve."

Scheck also mentioned United Way 211, designed to help anyone who has a need such as rent, utilities, medical or counseling. Those needing help can dial 211 or go to www.211kansas.org.

This year's goal is $475,000, the same as last year. Pacesetter companies have raised nearly $148,000 or 31 percent of the total.

"None of it is state money, none of it is federal money. It is all community money ... You decide what each project, each program is going to get," Rauch said.

Rauch is completing his first year as executive director.

"It's been good," he said. "It's definitely been informative. This is such a tight community. It seems like any time something comes up, people are ready to step in and help. It's such a different environment than anywhere else I've been."

Programs and their United Way Agency Providers are:

* Community/school based mentoring, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ellis County

* Nutritional supplement and financial assistance, Cancer Council of Ellis County

* Court appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children, CASA

* Counseling services and citizenship and immigration services, Catholic Charities

* Job follow-along, Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas (DSNWK)

* Disaster response and health and safety, Ellis County Chapter of the American Red Cross

* Meals on Wheels, emergency aid, backpack for kids, education and prevention, information and referral, First Call for Help

* Youth Development Program, Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland-Sunflower Region

* Infant/toddler intervention services, Hays Area Children's Center

* Domestic violence services, Kansas Legal Services

* 24-Hour crisis line services and safe shelter, Options: Domestic and Sexual Violence Services

* Parent education classes, Parents and Children Together (PACT)

* Family support services, United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas (UCP)

* Transportation work voucher program, Western Kansas Association on Concerns of the Disabled