The Finney County United Way officially kicked off its 2018 campaign on Aug. 16 with a goal of $500,000, $70,000 less than its last two previous years. But less than a month into the campaign, the agency already has raised about 67 percent of its goal.

“The last couple of years have been tough to reach. We’ve had it at $570,000 and it’s been a struggle, so we just lowered the goal," said Finney County United Way Executive Director Susan Escareno. "If we exceed it, great. … We’re hoping we exceed it, but we thought lowering it would be a good idea."

The campaign is off to a fast start because it already has completed the Tyson Fresh Meats portion of the campaign. Tyson and its employees historically raise a sizeable portion of the campaign funds, and this year raised about 46 percent of the total goal.

“The reason we’re that high already is that we did our Tyson campaign early this year, so that help increase it,” Escareno said. “That gives us a big boost, and hopefully we’ll get there this year and reach that goal.”

For the 2017 campaign, the Finney County United Way fell about $24,000 short of its goal. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what may have contributed to not reaching the goal, Ecareno said, but one thing may be that oil prices were bad in 2016 and several oil companies closed down in the area.

“We just see that trickle-down effect. If those businesses close down, then it trickles down to the people they do business with and that kind of thing,” Escareno said. “I think that was a big part of it.”

The organization has been reaching out to new businesses for corporate donations, Escareno said, noting that some longtime donor businesses have been upping their donations.

“Sunflower Electric formed a campaign committee and they’re selling T-shirts, and they have change jars sitting around. They’re going to have prize giveaways (for their employees) for giving so much and those kinds of things,” Escareno said. “It may seem like a little thing, but it really goes a long way and helps with the campaign.”

The Finney County United Way’s 2018 fundraising goal of $500,000 will be distributed amongst 21 partner agencies: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas; Communities In Schools; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels; Miles of Smiles; Real Men Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council, Boy Scouts of America; Building Blocks; Spirit of the Plains, CASA, Inc.; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center; and Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry.

The WKCAC is new to the United Way campaign, Escareno said, adding that the organization is based in Scott City but also has an office in Garden City.

The Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association and the Garden City Recreation Commission’s Summer Playground, both of which have been allocated money in the past, will not receive allocations this year.

“SEMAA, they have closed their doors. We were longtime funders of theirs, but they are no longer open,” Escareno said, adding that GCRC’s Summer Playground didn’t apply.

The Church of the Nazarene’s Angel Academy Daycare, which received allocations this year to start up the daycare, didn’t reapply either, Escareno said.

“When we met with them the first time, they kind of indicated it could be a one-time application thing,” she said.

Chad Knight, CEO of the YMCA of Southwest Kansas, said on Friday that the allocations it receives from the United Way Campaign are used for the YMCA’s after-school program.

“The United Way campaign does a lot for our organization, as well as the other agencies involved with United Way,” Knight said. "It enables us to offer a great program and keep the fees low for people to afford it.”

Escareno said those interested in donating toward the Unites Way campaign can make individual donations or through a corporate or employee campaign.

Those interested in donating can contact the Finney County United Way at (620) 275-1425, or by emailing Escareno at fcuwed@gmail.com.

“We function off of donor money, and we need to take that seriously. It’s not United Way money, it’s our community’s money and we need to do the right thing,” Escareno said. “The impact the money that goes out from United Way has on our community is huge. I don’t think people realize the number of individuals that are impacted by that.”

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com