For more than 70 years, a Dells-area group has collected money and distributed it to local organizations, and the members of that group are at it again seeking $44,050 in donations.
The effort is now called the United Fund, and this year is headed by Kevin Bernander. The funds raised stay in the community and most go to youth organizations.
Helping children in the community is how the effort got started. The Wisconsin Dells Events in 1943 reported on a Kiwanis Club meeting during which members discussed whether to continue a youth community chest drive to support organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, a Christmas party, free milk, a “School Field Day,” a Halloween party and Boys and Girls State. The youth community chest continued through the 1940s and in the 1950s became simply the Community Chest. A fundraising goal mentioned in an early article was $3,000. Later, the fundraising campaign was renamed the United Fund, and goals have increased.
Bernander said the organization always has been locally oriented. About 90 percent of its funds go to local groups. Two of the groups set to receive support have been recipients from the beginning: The Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts.
Other beneficiaries include groups like Kids’ Ranch, youth hockey, Central Wisconsin Community Action and more.
Before being funded, each group appears before the 11-member United Fund board to make a request, stating its purpose and how it will use the funds.
The Cub Scouts are a new group, Bernander said. Eagle Scout Nick Radzinski is re-organizing the local Cub Scouts program.
Debbie Kinder of Kids’ Ranch appeared to make the request for funds, and Bernander said she convinced the board of the program’s value in helping children to read.
Odyssey of the Mind — a creative problem-solving program for students — gets funding because it doesn’t receive funds from the school district, he said.
The Archery Club has 100 children as members. It also doesn’t receive financial assistance from the schools. Dells Teacher Brian Hartley, who heads the club, sees that the students do well in schools if they want to participate, Bernander said. Since it formed, the club has sent members to national tournaments.
Easter Seals is a national organization, but Bernander said, “It’s in our backyard.” Easter Seals Wisconsin has Camp Wawbeek and a respite camp in the Dells. Support from the United Fund “helps people in our school district,” Bernander said.
To fund these and other groups and meet the fund’s operating expenses, the United Fund needs to raise $44,050.
The fundraising appeal got started with a $4,200 donation from Monk’s. The money was raised when the six Monk’s locations celebrated the restaurant’s 70th anniversary. The restaurants donated 47 percent of their overall sales to nonprofit organizations of their choice. The Monk’s on Broadway and the Monk’s at the Wilderness chose the United Fund as one of their choices.
The nonprofit United Fund makes an appeal by sending a mailing to area residents asking them to contribute.
“Please consider making a contribution as part of your regular giving,” Bernander said. “We need the younger generation to step up” and give.
To donate, send a check to Dells Area United Fund, P.O. Box 486, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965.
For information about the fund, contact Bernander at the Bank of Wisconsin Dells, 608-254-3604, by cell phone at 608-434-3513 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.