Sevier County leaders hope to save struggling United Way

Sevier County leaders hope to save struggling United Way

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Ben Landers, CEO of the United Way of Greater Knoxville, said many United Ways have lost funding since the recession. Ben Landers, CEO of the United Way of Greater Knoxville, said many United Ways have lost funding since the recession.
United Way of Sevier County will have to close by the end of the year if they don't receive more funding. United Way of Sevier County will have to close by the end of the year if they don't receive more funding.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – Sevier County leaders are coming together to figure out a way to save the United Way of Sevier County.

Last week, the board of directors announced the United Way of Sevier County would be shutting its doors by the end of the year due to lack of funding.

Funding for the United Way has severely declined over the years and last week's announcement shocked the many charities and organizations that benefit from their funding.

"There's a lot of anxiety among those organizations out there, which in turn creates anxiety for the citizens that use those organizations," said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters. "We hope there's something we can do to help," 

According to tax records, the organization has seen a decline in donations of 75% since 2006. Five years ago they received more than $900,000 in donations. But in 2010, they received just over $200,000.

The United Way's Board of Directors said they are no longer able to accomplish their goals without the community's financial support.

But Mayor Waters, a former campaigner for United Way, hopes the community can come together.

"I have a stake in it as well and I hope there's a way we can move forward with it," he said.

But Sevier County isn't the only United Way struggling during hard times.

"Since the Great Recession of 2008, 2009, United Ways, local United Ways have seen their funding drop off and that's primarily because the backbone of United Way giving is people where they work, it's workplace giving," said Ben Landers, CEO of the United Way of Greater Knoxville.  "So when you have fewer people in the workforce it makes it difficult to circulate pledge cards when there are fewer people at work."

United Way of Greater Knoxville has seen a 17% drop in funding since 2006. But they're seeing a resurgence and they hope their neighbors in Sevier County will be able to pull through.

"What it gets down to is people in Knox County, people in Sevier County have to decide that United Way is the vehicle to give back. So we're optimistic, we hope that the people of Sevier County will decide to respond because it will have an impact on the health and human services in the area," Landers explained.

United Way of Sevier County has served the community for more than 20 years and currently provides funding to 19 organizations.

Mayor Waters said it affects hundreds of the areas citizens. He is planning to hold a meeting with community leaders and local business sometime in the month of October.

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