The United Way of South Central Oklahoma will officially begin this year’s campaign Thursday with its annual kick-off event.
Executive director tobi daniel Ervin said the luncheon serves a few different purposes. It’s a thank you to the volunteers and partners, a signal to divert fundraising efforts to the United Way and a call to action for the five-county area her United Way branch covers.
“We’re firing the gun to start the race, and it really is a maddening ten weeks because it is constant,” Ervin said. “We’re always doing tours or we’re speaking to groups.”
This year’s speaker will be Stacey Rose, a victim advocate for The Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma. Rose came to the shelter after escaping an abusive situation herself years ago, worked at Arbuckle Life Solutions and Mental Health Services of Southern Oklahoma before returning to the shelter as an advocate.
“(Domestic violence) really is a silent killer, especially in poor communities,” Ervin said. “People think there’s no escape. But you can have a safe haven, you can have anonymity there, and if law enforcement needs to be involved they will be.”
A student from Hilltop Equine Therapy, Inc. may also speak at the kick-off, but hasn’t formally confirmed.
Most United Ways run a several-week long campaign that starts in the fall, like UWOSCO’s.
“Now, there are some larger United Ways that are year-round, but for ours it’s ten weeks in the fall and we ask all our nonprofits not to do any fundraising for themselves during this period,” Ervin said.
The theme of this year’s campaign is “The Power of U,” a call for people to make an individual effort.
“We’re saying ‘Because of the power of you, we’re making it so these agencies can continue to function and help people.’,” Ervin said.
Ervin said the United Way serves a unique function, connecting multiple nonprofits and outreach organizations and giving them a platform they may not have otherwise.
 “Historically, United Ways have been able to and been given permission to go into workplaces and make presentations to the employees,” Ervin said. “For whatever reasons, and because of our historical success, they will let us do guided tours and they’ll let us do presentations on behalf of those agencies. The beauty of being part of United Way is the mission we’ve been given in most communities is to address large employee groups. Many of those groups will allow those employees a payroll deduction, which is an easy way to donate.”
The total amount raised will be announced at a wrap-up event at the end of the campaign. Last year’s total was $937,799. Ervin said her branch always sets a goal of $850,000, though it usually collects more.
“We don’t want anybody to think we’re getting a big head,” Ervin said. “So we approach it very gently, and then if we blow it out of the water, well, Hallelujah.”