United Way disbands

Staff reporter

After four years of trying to make it work, United Way in Marion County has ceased operation.

The difficult decision was made recently by the board of directors when it was realized that residents were not going to sufficiently participate.

"It wasn't feasible to continue to do it with the amount of money we were bringing in," executive director Lori Bebermeyer said. "There just wasn't enough participation."

She added that there many loyal businesses who participated but the organization just didn't have the needed response from individuals.

"We had good participation with payroll deductions," Bebermeyer said, but fund-raising efforts continued to fall short.

Jessie Nikkel is among the original board members who organized the agency.

She said the possibility of forming the non-profit organization was discussed in 2001. Formal meetings were held with businesses in 2002 and an agreement was signed with Harvey County United Way in 2003.

The Harvey County agency had provided the assistance needed for the Marion County organization to function as a United Way without paying more salaries and other fees associated with not-for-profit groups.

"Harvey County has been great," Nikkel said. "That group did everything it could to help us."

Nikkel continued that there definitely is a need for funding.

"If just 10 percent of county residents could have heard the presentations from those organizations that applied for funds, they would have had their eyes opened," she said.

Applicants are required to provide a presentation as a way to be chosen for funding. If the applicants met the goals of United Way in Marion County, funds were granted to them.

Nikkel said she was concerned about what may happen to those groups who have received funding from the local United Way group.

The board of directors did not give up easily.

Marion County Commission gave the agency $5,000 for the executive director's salary in a last ditch effort to get the organization off the ground.

"We did not have volunteers or financial support which is what it is all about," Nikkel said.

The board explored other options but it continued to be an issue of the same, small group of people trying to do it all.

"None of us wanted to dissolve the organization," Nikkel said.

Any remaining funds will be dispersed among those groups and organizations that received funding in 2007.

The organization officially dissolved Dec. 31.