Sunday Column: A driving force behind positive change

As originally published in the Our Towns section of The State Journal-Register.  Read original.

This past week, United Way kicked off its annual campaign in which our community unites in support of the local programs working toward a more hopeful future for our community. Over the years, many of Springfield’s most distinguished citizens have stepped forward to lead this community-wide effort; and my wife Val and I, along with my parents, Jack & Janice Butler, are deeply honored to lead this year’s United Way Campaign.

For nearly 125 years, Butler Funeral Homes and Cremation Tribute Center has served our community; and for much of this time, United Way has been the one organization in our community dedicated to supporting local services. Our local United Way is an independent organization completely overseen by local volunteers, and supporting only organizations addressing local needs. United Way serves the same community-driven purpose today as it did when it was founded by local business leaders almost a century ago.

As long time advocates and volunteers for United Way, we’ve had the pleasure of attending the annual campaign kickoff breakfast for years. However, it wasn’t until we first walked on stage and looked around that we realized just how many different groups and organizations were committed to United Way.

In the crowd were people from all walks of life and every sector of community, united for a common cause. In all, more than 70 organizations were present at Friday’s kickoff including community health workers, social service providers, our area’s largest employers, city officials, schools, unions, and civic groups. Each of these groups was in attendance for one reason…because United Way fights for the basic needs, education, health and financial stability of every person in our community.

Today’s United Way is a driving force behind positive change – surrounding our community’s most critical problems and works together with their partners to develop results-driven solutions to those challenges.

The work of United Way and its partners benefit everyone in our community by advancing solutions that lead to a more educated and skilled work force; provides families with the tools and resources to lead financially stable lives; and assures programs exist to help keep children off the streets and in the classroom. We all win when a person succeeds in school and life, when a neighborhood turns around, when families have good health and workers have solid jobs.

As we start this year’s campaign, it’s important to note that while United Way of Central Illinois donors have the ability to designate a gift to any IRS recognized nonprofit, United Way’s Community Fund provides the most effective way to support the many needs of our community. Moreover, United Way’s effective use of our investment in our community has led seven companies to underwrite the administrative and fundraising costs associated with the community fund. This means that every penny of our investment in United Way’s Community Fund goes directly to local programs.

Last year, thousands of people across our community invested more than $1.55 million in the community fund; and every dollar of these investments benefitted 34 local programs addressing specific priorities in the areas of basic needs, education, financial stability and health.

We invite each of you to join our family in support of United Way during this year’s annual campaign. We encourage you to visit to learn more about their work and to pledge your support. In addition, starting this year, you can also make your gift by texting “2017GIFT” to 41444. Your support of United Way and its partners and your support of local services which are creating positive long-term change in our community is greatly appreciated. After all, we have one life and to live better, we must Live United.

Chris Butler is the co-chair of the 2017 United Way Campaign. Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.