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United Way 10 percent away from its goal

Renee Nolting, executive director of the United Way of West Central Minnesota, thanks the donors and partners Friday at the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar during the organization's annual appreciation banquet. The United Way is 10 percent away from its fundraising goal. (Tribune photo by TJ Jerke)

WILLMAR -- With a larger fundraising goal to reach this year during rough economic times, the Willmar community and area continues to dig deep into their pockets and help the United Way of West Central Minnesota.

During its annual appreciation banquet Friday at the MinnWest Technology Campus, executive director Renee Nolting said the organization is only 10 percent away of reaching its goal of $930,000 after raising $836,950 so far during the 2010-2011 campaign, which ends June 30.

"I think people in this region understand we have to do this together and there are people in need," said Nolting who started with the United Way in February. "They know what we can do by putting our pennies together -- (that) can make a difference in any agency and anybody's lives."

Nolting emphasized to a group of more than 70 volunteers, donors, board members and staff that "the road is not always a straight line," and with the support of community members and area businesses, the United Way can help keep nonprofit agencies and individuals on a straight line.

The United Way of West Central Minnesota allocates funding to programs and services in 28 communities. The organization focuses on nonprofits in four major areas: education, income, health and basic needs. Nolting said 57 agencies have applied for funding this year, the most the local United Way has ever seen.

To help illustrate the impact the United Way has on area agencies, Gary Van Eps, founder and program director of The James House, spoke about the benefits of receiving funding from the United Way.

The James house was able to open its first office to help families affected by chemical dependency.

"The funding has helped us expand into family programs and move forward to open a program for women," Van Eps told the crowd. "It takes a lot of pressure off of us with all the donations that were given to the United Way."

The James House is a facility that primarily helps treat men facing addictions.

Rick Erickson, manager of the transportation donation program at Heartland Community Action Agency, also talked about what the United Way has done for the program he oversees.

The "Helping People Get There" program provides donated cars to people who need transportation to get to school or get to a job in an effort to get them off of public assistance. In addition to donated services from auto repair shops, grant funds from the United Way help support that program.

"We have a great United Way in West Central Minnesota," Erickson said.

The United Way of West Central Minnesota was able to provide funding for 48 programs after it exceeded its goal of $852,000 during the 2009-2010 campaign with $938,922.

Community members can help support the United Way of West Central Minnesota at a mini-golf benefit at 6 p.m. Thursday on the recently remodeled mini-golf course at the Big Kahuna Fun Park in Spicer.

Nolting said the organization has some big events left before the 2010-2011 campaign is over and encourages everyone to participate.

"Next week folks can be the first ones to golf the new course and have a great time," Nolting said.