COVID-19 has put a damper on United Way of Junction City/Geary County's campaign kickoff this year, but the virus has not prevented the campaign from taking place.

Usually, the campaign would start with fliers being handed out to crowd members at the first Junction City High School varsity football game of the year.

United Way Director Nichole Mader said the campaign began Sept. 11 as scheduled, but the nonprofit was unable to hand out anything to attendees at the football game.

“I miss my community,” Mader said. “This whole virtual campaign — not able to actually talk with people and sit with people — it’s a little frustrating. I’m very much a people person and so this is — it’s testing (us). But we’re doing everything we can.”

Mader said the United Way had not announced its fundraising goal for this season yet.

“We have not released our goal yet and I think we’re going to try and maybe step away from goal and just really focus on doing whatever we can to support the community,” she said.

However, United Way’s usual goal — and what it will need to raise in order to continue functioning and serving the community in all the capacities it has in past years — is $140,000.

When asked what United Way needed from the community this year, Mader said, “Faith — faith and support.”

“We’re all in trying times right now with covid and everything else,” she said. “The thing is, when the community put out the call that they needed support … we answered that call and we want to be able to continue to be here to answer those calls.”

During the pandemic, Mader said, the local United Way fed thousands of people using its now-defunct meal kit program. From March 14 through the end of June, she said, the United Way handed out about 5,000 meal kits, which in total fed about 20,000 people in the community.

“(That’s) 20,000 individuals that had food in their belly,” Mader said. “We don’t want people to just think of us as fundraisers. We’re here to support the community, but in order to do that, we have to be able to be supported as well."

Going forward, the campaign will run as follows:

Business Blitz will take place Oct. 5 to 9. During this event, volunteers with the United Way will go into the community and encourage donations and pledges from local businesses. The names of businesses that choose to help out during this time will be announced via the newspaper and social media.

Day of Caring will still take place Oct. 17. During Day of Caring, United Way volunteers will do yard work and light outdoor maintenance at the homes of local elderly and disabled people in the Junction City community.

At this time, the United Way is doing a raffle, the drawing for which will take place Sept. 18. People can stop by the office or go online to www.unitedwayjcgc.org to purchase tickets for a variety of raffle items.

This year, United Way is also selling campaign t-shirts, something it has not done in the past.

The United Way needs donations this campaign season. The nonprofit offers the option of payroll deduction through people’s workplaces. People who wish to make one-time or regular donations to United Way can do so in a variety of ways, including by mail, online, and over text.

Contact the United Way at (785) 238-2117, visit the office at 139 E. Eighth St. from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit the website at www.unitedwayjcgc.org to find out more. The United Way also has a Facebook page under the name of United Way of Junction City - Geary County, through which people can also make contact.

“We ask the community to not forget about us and also reach out,” Mader said. “Pick up a phone or we have the ability to do Zoom or anything like that. We really need the advocates right now. That’s really our big thing. Know that we’re not going anywhere. We are not going anywhere. We’re going to continue to do everything we can and we’re going to continue to answer the calls of the community as best we can."

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