News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

September 6, 2012

United Way of the Wabash Valley officially launches 2012 campaign

Pilot campaign brings in $718,840 of $1.86 million goal

TERRE HAUTE — The United Way of the Wabash Valley officially began its 2012 campaign on Wednesday — an effort to raise $1.86 million that will serve 33 agencies in six counties.

The agency began a pilot program in July with 20 companies working to jump start the campaign. Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett served as chairman of that program, announcing the companies had raised $718,840 — 38 percent of the goal.

“It is a good start, but there is still a lot of work to do,” said Troy Fears, executive director of the United Way, which services Vigo, Sullivan, Clay, Parke, and Vermillion counties in Indiana and Clark County in Illinois.

And that work will help do a lot of good in the Valley. The United Way announced this year it will help fund a school backpack program, started by Susan Eisman, a media specialist at Terre Haute North Vigo High School. Eisman spoke about the program during Wednesday during the United Way’s kickoff event.

The backpack program provides food such as bread, peanut butter, a can of tuna, fruit cup and crackers for students to take home each Friday.

“Fifty-four percent of the students in the school corporation are on free or reduced lunches. For many, the last good meal they will receive is on Friday [of the school week],” Eisman said.

Students simply fill out a slip and anonymously place that into a box to provide school workers with the number of backpacks needed each week. “The deeper purpose of the backpack is encouragement and hope,” Eisman said.

The program at Terre Haute North Vigo was initially funded by teachers, but this year, the program was spread throughout the school corporation. Duke Energy donated $1,000 to the program after Eisman’s presentation to the United Way, Fears announced.

“Other people’s lives are changing for the better and it is all due to your generosity,” said Claudia Tanoos, chair of the 2012 campaign and vice president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp.

“The backpack program will allow food to be provided for areas of poverty and assist our students in our schools who leave school on Friday afternoon without any meal until they return on Monday morning for a school breakfast,” Tanoos said.

Tanoos spoke about Catholic Charities, an agency served by the United Way, and how she and her husband, Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Dan Tanoos, participated in a hunger challenge last year. They were limited to spending $4.57 a day on food for one week.

Tanoos told a story of the couple gathering up sandwiches from a luncheon after an Indiana State University football game to drop them off to a soup kitchen during that challenge. The couple “saw a family of four walking with worn clothes, a gallon jug of water, holding very close to each other.” Tanoos spoke how her husband had offered them the sandwiches.

“The father humbly looked over to his wife as she held their 2-year-old son in her arms and looked down only to have their 6-year-old daughter look Danny in the eye and say yes. We would like some sandwiches and she told us she had a book bag to put them in.”

The family thanked them for the sandwiches. “It really knocked me to my knees,” Tanoos said. “That whole hunger challenge week was suddenly put into perspective for me. Sunday at midnight it was over for me but Sunday at midnight for those like the family walking down the street, would go through this again and again.”

Tanoos said agencies such as Catholic Charities show the importance of giving to the annual fundraising campaign.

Also, as incentives to donate to the United Way, a person who gives $50 of new money, above any contribution made last year, will get one chance to receive a new red 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LS, donated by Terre Haute Chevrolet. Each $50 of new money is worth one chance, so $100 of new money is two chances, Fears said. The winner, selected in a drawing in January, is responsible for state and federal taxes on the vehicle.

In addition, the Indiana Association of United Ways will match any new contributions of $100 or greater. Any gift up to $499 will have a 50-cent match, while any gift of more than $500 will be matched dollar for dollar. The United Way of the Wabash Valley could earn up to $190,000 in matching funds for new money raised, Fears said.

Also, Energizing Indiana will donate $25 to the United Way for anyone signing up and receiving a home energy assessment.

Meanwhile, the fundraising effort got an additional boost Wednesday. Beth Tevlin, executive director of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, raised the total collected thus far an additional $5,000, presenting a distribution from the Community Chest — a group organized in 1942 and a precursor of the United Way, which started in Terre Haute in 1957. The Community Chest receives an annual distribution from the Frederick R. Benson Trust, established in 1953.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or

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