The best way to describe Amanda Holk’s role in the months leading up to the United Way of Frederick County’s largest fundraising effort is shepherd.
But instead of wrangling sheep, Holk corralled 32 nonprofits that are part of this year’s Unity Campaign, which launches Wednesday.
For the past few months, Holk, the director of advancement, has spoken to nonprofits that assist Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) families. There was the event Monday, a speed dating for nonprofits so the community could learn more about what they do.
For 12 days, 32 nonprofits will look to raise money with help of the United Way of Frederick County.
And then there is maintaining the funding that has already come in. The United Way of Frederick County set $525,000 as the goal of the Unity Campaign. As of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, the campaign has raised $260,321.87.
Last year, United Way surpassed its goal, which it tends to do with the Unity Campaign, said Malcolm Furgol, director of community impact. By setting the goal $25,000 higher this year, the organization looked to push itself.
In addition to an increased goal, more nonprofits are seeking funds. To qualify for the Unity Campaign, the nonprofits had to show they had plans to help those that fall under the ALICE line. Some nonprofits have returned this year, as well as new ones such as the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, Furgol said.
The nonprofits can provide different services to those under the ALICE line — services similar to the ones Holk once used.
Holk grew up in Illinois. Her parents separated early in her life, and she was raised in a single-parent home.
“And that almost always, at least in where I’m from, means that you’re, you know, things are going to be hard for your family to make ends meet. ... We just struggled,” Holk said.
She did not use the services participating in the Unity Campaign — she was in the Midwest — but she used similar services, such as getting her teeth cleaned in a van outside her elementary school. She took part in a free and reduced-price meals program that provides food in schools.
By her senior year of high school, she was homeless.
“And if I would have had something like [nonprofits United Way supports] while I was in high school, that would have helped me tremendously, because it’s a very isolating experience to be homeless and 17,” she said.
Holk found her way.
She and her husband moved from Illinois to other areas of Maryland before settling in Frederick County. They fell in love with the area, she said. As she was looking for work, the position with the United Way of Frederick County opened up.
Nonprofits can get preoccupied with budgeting and other daily operations, preventing those who work for them from meeting the people they help, Holk said. Her own experience helps remind her how nonprofits help people. She can help other nonprofits with advice on listening to those people who seek their services.
“And so I think that just my own experience has given me an interesting perspective to be able to assist the nonprofits and seeing it in a different way,” she said.
The 32 nonprofits that are part of the Unity Campaign in 2019 have different monetary goals.
Blessings in a Backpack, for example, has a goal to raise $75,000. It has already raised more than $73,000. That nonprofit, which provides food to children on weekends and school breaks, generally raises money over the summer leading up to the beginning of the school year, Holk said.
Others, like the City Youth Matrix, which helps families pay for their children to attend after-school activities, have smaller goals. The relatively new organization is looking to raise $2,500.
All of the donated money goes directly to the nonprofits in the campaign, said Unity Campaign chairman Joe Gatewood. United Way also raises an incentive fund so each nonprofit tends to see a bit more, he said.
So far that incentive fund has raised $100,000 this year, he said.
The Unity Campaign started in 2014, with 19 nonprofits and a much smaller monetary goal. The goal is to make it a $1 million campaign, Gatewood said.
“And so, every year that has grown, and so it continues to grow,” he said.
People should donate to the Unity Campaign because the county needs to rally around itself, Holk said.
“The easiest thing I can say is no one is going to care about Frederick if we don’t care about Frederick,” she said.