CRYSTAL LAKE – When Yolanda Ramos escaped from her abusive relationship, she and her children needed a place to live.
After moving from living room to living room of friends and family, she knew she needed stable affordable housing.
She connected with Home of the Sparrow, which provided her and her children with a roof over their heads and help landing a job, which she has held since 2011.
Ramos told her story at the United Way of Greater McHenry County campaign kickoff breakfast, which marked the beginning of the organization’s fundraising period.
Home of the Sparrow is one of 27 agencies that receive finding from the United Way, and Ramos credits the program with saving her life.
One in four people in McHenry County benefited last year from the programs that are sponsored by the United Way, said Steve Otten, executive director of the United Way of Greater McHenry County.
Otten said the organization’s wide reach is a benefit to the entire county.
“We have the unique ability to take small donations and build them into large numbers,” Otten said. “We also are very unique in that we can help those that want to give but aren’t sure where to give.”
The United Way of Greater McHenry County has a campaign goal of $1.5 million. Last year the fundraising effort raised $1.4 million, an amount Otten hopes to surpass.
“I think it’s a fair number,” he said. “It’s slightly more than what we raised last year. But we also have to recognize the environment that we’re in. We want to be realistic about it but also give ourselves something to shoot at. To reach that number would be tremendous for our organization.”
Last year the United Way fell short of its campaign goal of $1.6 million. Newly appointed campaign Chairwoman Karen Moses said reaching this year’s target is an attainable goal.
“The numbers last year were a little disappointing,” Moses said. “We believe that $1.5 million is right where we need to be for the needs of the county. Clearly we can be doing so much more for our community, but we believe we are on a good path to reach that goal this year.”
After the campaign breakfast, Moses and other United Way volunteers headed to Woods Creek Elementary School to read to kindergartners with the hope that the volunteer event will launch similar opportunities at other schools in the community.
“It’s our way of kicking off [the volunteer effort] in the community,” Moses said. “What better way to do it than going out and … putting it into practice in the community.”
The United Way of Greater McHenry County funds organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Turning Point, Pioneer Center for Human Services and the Sage YMCA of Metro Chicago, among others. The United Way also funds McHenry County’s 2-1-1 service, which connects residents to a variety of human services.
Those interested in giving to the United Way or running their own United Way campaign can contact the United Way of Greater McHenry County at 815-363-1377.