Mother Doreen Rice and Linda Couch

Mother Doreen Rice (left) and Linda Couch (right) box up meals for United Way of Junction City/Geary County’s potato bar fundraiser Wednesday at the Episcopal Church of the Covenant.

United Way’s potato bar fundraiser brought in a total of $700 — almost double the roughly $400 raised in 2019, the last time United Way was able to have the event.

United Way of Junction City/Geary County Director Nichole Mader said she was pleased with the outcome.

She said the community has done a good job of showing up and showing support throughout the pandemic.

“Communities all over the place have struggled with COVID and struggled with job loss and just the craziness that we’re in right now,” Mader said. “It’s really shown communities that when they work together that they’re able to make changes and they’re able to help their communities. I mean, right now, local shopping is through the roof, people are supporting the mom and pop restaurants, they’re supporting the little grassroots organizations because they’ve found out — one, how valuable they are, but two — they’ve also found out that those are their neighbors. Those are the people they live, eat and work with every day and so I think the one thing that we can take through all of this is the fact that — yeah, you probably have a handful of people that may not be completely thrilled with our community. — but at the end of the day, we all come together to support each other. We may be unhappy about this aspect of the community or that aspect of the community or whatever but we still can come together and do what’s right.”

Mader said she feels the outpouring of support the Munson family received when Munson’s Prime Steakhouse burned down and the multiple blessings boxes that have popped up in Junction City are proof of the community’s generosity.

“We have a very, very strong community in the aspect that we’re there for each other,” she said. “You have community boxes popping up everywhere. And it’s people that — they don’t make a lot of money. They’re struggling just like the rest of us, but they see that the need is out there and they see how even just a little bit of work can go such a long way and so many lives have been impacted.”

Volunteers sold more than 120 baked potatoes and took the leftovers to the Junction City Fire Department, the Geary County Sheriff’s Office and the Junction City Police Department. The toppings and potatoes were donated, so the full $700 raised will benefit United Way’s projects.

Funds raised will support United Way’s efforts in the Geary County community and the agencies the local United Way supports.

Normally the potato bar would allow people the chance to socialize, but COVID-19 kept the event drive-thru only.

“It was a lot of fun and we just had a lot of support with people coming out and getting a potato,” Mader said. “I know that there were a few that were sad that they couldn’t come in and eat. And we would have loved to have them come in and eat. By any means, it’s not a decision we made lightly. But unfortunately with COVID, we had to make that choice.”

The event had about 12 volunteers, many of them United Way board members and their families — as it usually is with this particular fundraiser.

“It’s just another way to bring us together and help the community, in a manner of speaking, to have a good lunch and make a bit of a donation in the process,” Mader said.

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