LAWTON, Okla._The United Way of Southwest Oklahoma is giving you the chance to make sure nearly two dozen organizations and thousands of people and families across this region can get the help they need.
United Way is wrapping up their million-dollar 'Be The One' campaign that kicked off in September. Their goal is to raise $1.69 million before the end of this year, and they are at 35 percent of their goal. Residents can help those who are facing everything from homeless and substance abuse, to mental health and medical issues.
The United Way wants to remind everyone that those who give before the end of this year can include their donations for tax purpose and the funds are used all year.
"It's not just because it's the holidays, it's throughout the whole year. So, this just doesn't benefit this time that we celebrate the Christmas season, this is something that is throughout the whole year. So, any of the funds that we receive are going right back to the community," said Los Irizarry, United Way of Southwest Oklahoma campaign chair.
The local United Way serves 19 non-profit organizations and thousands children and families in the Lawton community. Last year, the organization raised about $1.5 million to help those partner agencies and 74,000 people in the community.
They have not hit their goal, but Irizarry says one of the best things about Lawton is it's a "giving" community, and he's confident more funds will come in for the campaign.
"There's a lot of other organizations obviously who are in need. It seems a lot of people are giving to a lot of other organizations as well. Either tithing to our church or we're doing something special for the Boys and Girls Club, but bottom line, we're also looking at the fact that these 19 partner agencies rely heavily on what we're trying to do for them," Irizarry said.
Roadback, one of the recipients of United Way funding, provides services in mental health, substance abuse and medical health care. They say they are the largest provider of these services for the poor in the region. Roadback says United Way funding helps them better serve those who are uninsured or underinsured.
"If they don't meet the guidelines for the state to help cover their coverage, then they'd have to pay for that themselves and the United Way dollars help bridge the gap so that every person who comes through that door can receive the services they need," said Christina Erman, Roadback's executive director.
Roadback provides services for everyone from 12 years old to senior citizens. They serve around 1,000 individuals and families through in-patient and out-patient services and classes.
"The United Way dollars are critical for us to serve all the people that we do each year. And without United Way funding, we would have to serve much less or we would have to cut off services to make sure that we can provide adequate care to the people that we serve" Erman said.
Roadback says they want to make sure their organization provides everything families need to be successful and they also serve a number of veterans and incorporate a lot of military programs through partnerships.
"There aren't any other agencies like Roadback that do all the levels of care that we do. We're one of the few left in the southwest portion of the state that does all the services that we do. So we have a lot of unique opportunities. If we didn't exist, they'd have to go a great distance—Oklahoma City, Tulsa, other corners of the state to get services—when they can come here in our community," Erman said.
Irizarry said the need for help is huge in the area at all times, but especially during this time of year.
"The community is in really, really big need right now. We're seeing more and more folks are kind of staying in a situation where you might have looked at them as middle class before. Right now, what we're seeing is they're becoming working poor," Irizarry said.
Irizarry encourages everyone to contact the United Way if you have a great fundraising idea.
"There's always a way to engage the folks that work for an organization to help. A bank might have a dress down day or a United Way day. A school might think of something to do like a bake sale. Any sort of fundraising that they want to be able to do," Irizarry said.