United Way Raises The Bar

Local Organization Sets $1.2M Fundraising Goal, Up From $1.168M Record

Posted: September 12, 2013

Mary Ann Alger, James Madison University’s first lady, reads a book to Skyline Middle School students during the annual United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County fundraising campaign kickoff Wednesday. She is chair of a new United Way initiative, “We Read to Succeed.” (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Amy Michtich (left) and Jim Shaeffer, United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County campaign co-chairs, speak at the kickoff Wednesday at Skyline Middle School.
HARRISONBURG — The United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County is asking local residents to “think we before me” this year to help meet a $1.2 million fundraising goal announced Wednesday.

A group of United Way advocates gathered at Skyline Middle School Wednesday for the annual campaign kickoff, where organizers announced the fundraising goal and celebrated how donations have aided the community in years past.

“Being here today, you are part of one of the greatest traditions,” Alan Shelton, president of the United Way board of directors, told those gathered. “It’s not so much what one of us can do, but what we can do as a collective group.”

This year’s campaign will mark the 56th for the local United Way, which has raised $28 million in that time. This year’s $1.2 million fundraising goal ups the ante for the organization, which set a record last year by raising $1.168 million. The organization is expected to announce the results of this year’s campaign in May.

The money is distributed among United Way’s 34 partner agencies — local nonprofits that serve the community’s education, health and financial needs.

“[The money] stays right here to help the people of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County,” Shelton said.

In addition to Shelton and campaign co-chairs Amy Michtich, vice president of MillerCoors Shenandoah Brewery, and Jim Schaeffer, James Madison University’s vice provost for outreach and engagement, speakers at the event included JMU’s first lady Mary Ann Alger and Harrisonburg City Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner.

Alger announced a new reading initiative of the United Way Board of Directors called “We Read to Succeed.” The board is spearheading the program in partnership with the Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County school divisions, JMU and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

The initiative, which will launch as a three-year pilot project at Spotswood and Smithland Elementary schools, is a targeted effort for “all schoolchildren to be reading on grade level before the end of third grade,” Alger said.

Without proper literacy skills, the likelihood of students doing well in school plummets after that time, Alger and Kizner said.

“The research is clear that this pivotal point must happen before third grade,” said Alger, who will chair the We Read to Succeed Advisory Council.

Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com

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