Executive Director, Ada Regional United Way
In 1947, Pontotoc County business leaders began discussing how to meet the flood of requests for funding community needs. From this discussion, the Ada Community Chest was created to provide a single entity to manage financial donations for all Ada businesses and individuals. Donors were assured their funds would be used to help the greatest number of people possible.
The Ada Community Chest was able to maximize charitable giving in our community and fund those organizations doing good work to help Ada residents in immediate need of food, clothing and shelter. It worked well for a while.
Since 1947, unfortunately, there are still those in our community in need of basic necessities. However, the giving habits of our citizens have changed. The Ada Community Chest became Ada Regional United Way in order to focus on creating and sustaining long-lasting change in the areas of health, education and financial stability for every citizen in our community. That focus remains true to this day, 70 years later, in 2017.
Ada Regional United Way funds and promotes specific programs within our community partner agencies to ensure our donors’ dollars are used to really make a difference. As good stewards of Ada-donated community funds, Ada Regional United Way requires our community partner agencies to submit quarterly reports on funded programs and undergo annual financial audits to ensure fiscal responsibility.
The focus on the specific community impact areas of health, education and financial stability is a United Way Worldwide mandate. However, what makes Ada Regional United Way unique is our long-range look at where the system has failed, and where improvements can be made by working with area coalitions on family health and childhood education, we do not just stop at meeting needs, but we press forward to ensure stability and success of those within our community. We find many who have benefitted from funded agencies now volunteer to help others within Ada.
Our goal for 2017 and beyond is to change the question from, “How can I help you today?” to, “How can I help you help yourself tomorrow?” We are finding – and funding – programs dedicated to helping others in our community become productive, self-sufficient citizens who don’t rely on social services if they don’t want to. Breaking the cycle of dependency can only be done by the collaborative spirit shown by Ada Regional United Way.
Currently, Ada Regional United Way has funded 13 programs through partner agencies, and arranged to carry three special programs of our own through 2017. We are constantly looking for agencies or programs which would move the needle in one of the areas of health, education and financial stability. For more information on how you can partner with us please visit our website at adaunitedway.org, or call me directly at (580) 332-2313, ext 224.
The future of Ada Regional United Way and our community is bright. Our vision for a healthier, better-educated, more financially-stable community is a big one, and we aren’t trying to do it alone. New partners and more stakeholders are joining in our conversation. More partner agencies are collaborating to ensure we make the most of the limited funds available. Ada Regional United Way is the tie that binds. By giving to Ada Regional United Way, you can create long-lasting change for EVERY ONE in our community.
James Jackson has been the Executive Director for Ada Regional United Way since January 2015. With more than 16 years of volunteer experience and 10 years of retail experience, James brings a unique perspective to leading Ada Regional United Way into the future. James and his wife of 10 years, Amy, are long-time Ada residents. They have two children, Jadyn and Zachary.
Originally appeared in The Ada News on 03.04.2017