By Brad Hicks

Last year’s effort greatly exceeded expectations and, this year, the Unicoi County United Way is raising the bar.

The Unicoi County United Way on Tuesday, Oct. 18, kicked off its 2017 fundraising campaign at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center. The organization’s kickoff breakfast was attended by a host of local community, business and industry leaders. Eric Dewey, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Nashville United Way, was also on hand to encourage those in attendance in their fundraising efforts.

Although contributions will be accepted at any time, the Unicoi County United Way’s formal fundraising campaign will run through Dec. 8. The goal for the 2017 campaign is $120,000, up from the goal of $105,000 set for the organization’s 2016 campaign.

“After the United Way Board reviewed the contributions from last year, they decided we should challenge ourselves and raise the 2017 campaign goal to $120,000,” said Unicoi County United Way President Lee Brown. “Our community has a servant heart and always goes above and beyond to help others, so I feel confident that we will meet our new goal.”

The Unicoi County United Way’s 2016 campaign was a record-setter, as gifts and pledges surpassed last year’s goal of $105,000, Brown said. Last year’s campaign raised nearly $148,000, the most ever raised during an annual campaign in the county.

More than 90 percent of contributions made to Unicoi County United Way directly assists local agencies. The organization supports more than 20 agencies that provide services to the residents of Unicoi County, including the Change Is Possible Family Violence Shelter, Clinchfield Senior Adult Center, Unicoi County Family YMCA, Unicoi County Little League, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, the local library, and Unicoi County 4-H.

Other nonprofit agencies whose values align with the core mission of the Unicoi County United Way may submit a letter of request for special funding to the local United Way Board. The letter must detail the agency’s need for funding, and a current financial statement must be included. All requests must be submitted no later than Nov. 25, 2016, in order to be considered for funding.

“We’re able to give some additional donations to some agencies that are not in our annual list of agencies that we make commitments to that we fund every year,” Brown said. “We’ll probably do another five or six special donations to other agencies at our victory luncheon in December.”

The Unicoi County United Way is now in its 69th year of existence. The local organization is one of 1,800 groups spanned across 40 countries and territories. United Way has raised more than $5 billion each year and has 2.6 million volunteers working with different agencies across the world. United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit organization engaging people from all walks of life in nearly 1,800 communities, according to the United Way Worldwide website.

Contributions to the Unicoi County United Way may be dropped off at Clinchfield Senior Adult Center, 220 Union St., Erwin, or mailed to Unicoi County United Way, P.O. Box 343, Erwin, TN 37650.

More information on the Unicoi County United Way can be found on Facebook by searching UWUNICOITN.