Children's Advocacy Center of Paris Pinwheel Planting

Slade Green pauses a moment after planting one of 290 pinwheels at the Children’s Advocacy Center earlier this year. The pinwheels represent each child served by the center in 2020.

Autumn is here, and that means the United Way of Lamar County’s fall drive is in full swing. Donations are being accepted now through Nov. 12 to keep 22 essential community organizations such as The Boys & Girls Club of Lamar County, Meals on Wheels and SAFE-T, running smoothly — especially after the financial ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The goal for this year is $550,000. So far, the organization has raised $71,591.74, or 13% of the goal. United Way executive director Jenny Wilson said the need for donations is at an all-time high.

“This year has been really hard on the community not only due to the pandemic but the fact that Turner Industries shut down. Turner has gone to a skeleton crew of only about 12 employees due to massive layoffs recently,” she said. “Those guys were so generous to us and important to the city economically all around. They made up one-fifth of our funding.

“We received $150,000 from them last year and that significant loss is something we hope we can make up for this fall, so we can get these essential organizations the funding they need.”

Wilson said the local community has stepped up to meet the increase in needs of families that are lacking critical survival necessities like food, medical supplies and oxygen, “especially to help take the burden off severely overcrowded hospitals.”

Organizations like The King’s Daughters bring life-saving medicine to those in need at their homes, and Meals on Wheels makes sure eligible people don’t go hungry. Donations to United Way go toward funding these organizations, as well as CASA, The Salvation Army and The American Red Cross.

“The employees at our workplace campaigns, especially at the banks and businesses like Campbell’s and Kimberly-Clark have been amazing lately. We asked that they give a little more during the pandemic, and sure enough they have volunteered to add a dollar or two more from their paychecks each time,” she said. “They know that for a lot of people this pandemic has just been an inconvenience, but for families living paycheck to paycheck, missing two weeks of work means not being able to cover the rent.”

SAFE-T director Venita Byrd said the need for resources to help domestic violence victims has tripled in the past year, especially on the emergency hotline.

“The United Way has been essential in helping us help people find a safe place during the severe havok this pandemic has wreaked on families. Thanks to the United Way, we could afford the space we needed for victims of domestic violence during the pandemic,” Byrd said. “Families have been under immense pressure during this time and the problem of domestic violence continues to grow exponentially, so having the resources we need to put women and children up in a motel when we ran out of space was an amazing resource provided by the United Way.”

Another essential community resource the United Way’s funding has financed is The Boys & Girls Club of Lamar County.

“We help parents not worry about their kids being well taken care of so they can work the hours that they need to be financially successful,” executive director Jason Macchia said. “Our organization exists to ensure that kids have a healthy meal to eat when they get off the bus and somewhere to go while their parents are at work, somewhere where they feel safe and socially and intellectually cared for after school, with art, music and science programs. This way, kids never have to go home to an empty house and can spend their time productively around adults that can be a positive influence in their lives.”

Donations to The United Way can be made at lamarcountyuw.org.

Jessica Waller is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6965.

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