Marc Whitt received an envelope filled with change from a campus employee during his first year as campaign chair for Eastern Kentucky University’s United Way fundraising campaign.

“She wrote me a little note saying that she was sorry that she couldn’t give more, but she pulled out everything she had in her purse,” Whitt said. “That is the Eastern story. That is the kind of commitment that I think speaks so well to the heart of this university.”

Whitt helped EKU kick off this year’s United Way campaign Tuesday by announcing a base fundraising goal of $35,000 and a challenge goal of $45,000.

Faculty, staff and students raised more than $35,400 last year.

“At one time, Eastern’s campaign would typically raise between $5,000 and $6,000 from the students alone,” Whitt said. “That, I think, speaks very highly of what our students can do while paying for tuition, books and things like that.”

EKU President Doug Whitlock described the university’s long-standing relationship with United Way of the Bluegrass, which helps fund programs that support day care, youth development and mentoring, care for seniors, domestic violence prevention and more.

“For more than 20 years, the United Way has been the only one of the nation’s greatest charities that Eastern as an organization has endorsed and given its institutional support,” he said during the kickoff. “We have here a giving and caring community. I think that’s one of the reasons the United Way effort here has always been so successful.”

“We’re more interested in the participation than we are in the level of giving,” Whitlock said. “This is something that will grow over time once people get in the habit of supporting this strong organization.”

The goal for the county campaign is $320,000, said Denae Boyd, chair of the 2008 Madison County campaign.

“Last year, we were only able to fund 65 percent of the requests from the community agencies because the funding continues to decline year after year,” she said. “I’m positive that EKU will help make this campaign a success. EKU has been one of the top five contributors to the United Way campaign.”

Kathy Plomin, president of United Way of the Bluegrass, said the organization is trying to focus on education, access to health care and financial stability.

“We’re heading toward community solutions not just Band-Aids,” she said. “Let’s all go together on this destination.”

“Donors can see this greater return on their investment,” Plomin said. “They can put their arms around it and say, ‘Wow. We did this as a community.’”

On EKU’s campus, the facility services department had 100 percent participating in campaign the past two years.

Madison County is the second largest county in the Bluegrass Region and has some of the highest needs in the region, said Jim Conneely, chair of the Madison County United Way Board.

“This really gives an opportunity for Eastern Kentucky University to set the pace and really show its leadership in the community,” he said.

To donate to United Way of the Bluegrass campaign, go to www.uwbg.org.

Bryan Marshall can be reached at bmarshall@richmondregister.com or 624-6691.

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