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United Way fundraising campaign kicks off





Hays community leaders gathered Friday in the Rose Garden Banquet Hall to support United Way of Ellis County as it launched a campaign to raise $490,000 by the end of 2014.

As a supporter of 15 local agencies, the nonprofit helps with initiatives benefitting children, seniors, the underprivileged and other groups. Education, housing and financial stability are among their top priorities, said Jason Rauch, executive director of United Way's local chapter.

The agencies include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ellis County, CASA of the High Plains, Options: Domestic and Sexual Violence Services and Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas. The extent of United Way's reach touches many in the community.

"When you look at the demographics, the people that get helped here tend to be seniors or people employed," Rauch said. "Single women with children, families with medical conditions and issues. That's who gets helped here. It's not a 'them,' it's not a 'they,' it's your friends. It's your family."

The director appealed to audience members' desire to leave a better community for others.

"When my neighbor needs a hand, I'm going to give my neighbor a hand. You have all done that for the last 60 years," he said. "Not turned your back on your neighbor. Not turned your back on the next generation, but have said, 'It is going to be better tomorrow than it is today."

Rauch said contributing to United Way is an efficient donation.

"There is no other organization in this county that makes as big of an impact as we do," he said. "If you really are looking at having a very tight budget, very few dollars, and you want to make sure your dollars are going to make the most impact as possible, that would be United Way."

Terry Siek, 2014 United Way campaign chair and chief nursing officer for Hays Medical Center, said he witnesses the nonprofit's impact at the hospital. Aside from assistance with patients, HaysMed staff is involved with other groups such as the United Way-supported Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland Sunflower Region.

Sue Boldra, R-Hays, 111th district representative, attended the kickoff luncheon. The member of the Kansas State Legislature praised the region's philanthropic spirit.

"I am always amazed at the outpouring, you know, they put up the signs to show us the thermometer and how far we are, and I think, '$500,000, we can't do that in this community, not in these distressed times, not when people are struggling,' and yet we come through," Boldra said.

The Hays Area Chamber of Commerce coordinated the kickoff event.