United Way campaign begins

In 1987, Blount County became part of United Way of Central Alabama’s service area, and for 23 years its residents in need have benefited from the increased social services available.

The 2010 fundraising campaign for Blount County officially opened at Oneonta Rotary Club’s meeting last week, when county campaign chairman John Bullard announced a United Way goal of more than $24,000.

“I am honored to serve as chairman for the Blount County United Way campaign and to help bring more services to county residents,” said Bullard, a native of Blount County and a licensed bank executive with Superior Bank.

Working side by side with Bullard are Blount residents Gwen Blackwell and Arin Billings. Blackwell serves as a loaned executive and is sponsored by Baptist Health Systems. She will work through late November visiting organizations and individuals to educate them about United Way and ask for donations. Billings is a United Way staff member and relationship manager for the county.

United Way’s impact in Blount County is expanding with each successful campaign. For example, the Success-By-6 preschool learning initiative is operating in two local day care centers, Lester Memorial United Methodist Church and the Kids Learning Center.

Two of Kids Learning Center’s child development specialists, Gayila Daily and Jennifer Hafley, work closely with Success-By-6’s school readiness specialists. They demonstrate the dedication and enthusiasm that translate into outstanding performance of the children in their center.

Dailey, the center director, works hard to assure each child in her classroom is ready to go to “ big school” at Oneonta Elementary. She and assistant director Hafley wear many hats every day serving as early childhood educators and hug givers.

More than 40 preschoolers have benefited from the partnership between Kids Learning Center and Success-By-6. They have received books, gained high quality instruction, and participated in early childhood screenings and parent training to help families focus on the importance of school readiness.

United Way of Central Alabama supports 14 partner agencies in Blount County that serve more than 19,000 residents each year through programs such as Blount County Aid to Homeless Children, Blount County CASA, Blount County Children’s Center, Oneonta City Needy School Children’s Fund, and Salvation Army of Blount County. United Way also supports many other programs outside the county that serve Blount County residents.