Need for United Way greater than ever in U.S. cities, Springfield

7:00 p.m Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 Community News
Jeff Guerini
Janet Jackson former CEO United Way of Central Ohio was the keynote speaker at a CEO Summit for Clark Champaign and Madison Counties. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

Organizations like the United Way are more important than ever to help residents as Ohio cities continue to struggle with poverty after the Great Recession, a former United Way leader said.

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The United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties held a CEO Summit Thursday morning to educate local leaders about the ways businesses can benefit from participating in United Way fundraising campaigns and service events.

Problems in Ohio are similar to those in other areas of the country, such as Seattle and Los Angeles, said guest speaker Janet E. Jackson, a Wittenberg University graduate who spent 14 years as the president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Central Ohio.

“There are aren’t too many cities who are immune to the issues we’re facing,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, we’re at a time in this country where the divide in this country between the haves and the have-nots is growing every day.”

Columbus has a low unemployment rate, Jackson said, but that’s attributed to many people working low-paying service jobs.

“Those aren’t high school students working at McDonald’s,” she said. “Those are adults and you can see that across the spectrum.”

RELATED: Unemployment up slightly in Clark County, job growth slow in Ohio

Social responsibility, philanthropy and service can create a connection between a company, its employees and the community, said David Heppner, senior vice president of Speedway and the vice president of the local United Way board of directors.

In the past, employees donated and the company wrote a check to the organization, he said. Over the past few years, the company has changed its strategy to relate to millennials who want accountability for their donations and to perform volunteer service, he said.

“You have that connection and you have a purpose,” Heppner said. “You basically have a purpose and you’re helping to solve social problems in the community. If you can make that happen, you’re going to attract and retain the best employees.”

Speedway has participated in several United Way events to engage employees, including its annual service day project. Last year more than 500 volunteers donated more than 3,000 hours of service hours to 40 nonprofit organizations in Clark County. This year, the event will be held on April 27.

About $1.1 million has been raised in the three-county area as part of the ongoing 2017 campaign, campaign Chairman Ross McGregor said. The goal is $1.6 million, said McGregor, also senior vice president of Pentaflex.

The United Way is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Security National Bank President John Brown will serve as chairman of the 2018 campaign, he said.

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