“Give. Advocate. Volunteer.”

Those three words make up the mantra the United Way of Lake and Sumter uses to make a difference for people throughout the communities the organization serves.

According to Cathy Reardon, the organization’s Resource Development director, a big chunk of the funding for projects the United Way supports comes from donations. The primary way the United Way connects with people who may want to give is through the Workplace Campaign.

United Way Community Services Director Barbara Crewell said without the campaign, their reach would not extend as far.

“Campaign is vital for us. It’s our bread and butter. Without these funds, we would not be able to make a difference,” Crewell said.

The Workplace Campaign for 2016-2017 allows United Way representatives to visit workplaces of participating businesses to stimulate interest in volunteer opportunities and solicit one-time or ongoing contributions that can be automatically set up through payroll deductions.

Reardon said every bit people donate helps.

“The campaign is a good way of advocating for the United Way because it allows us reach a big cross section of people each time,” Reardon said. “The largest portion of our annual funds comes from this campaign.”

According to a United Way 2014-2015- year-end annual report, the campaign generated $932,900.

Those funds were used for grants to help local charitable organizations fund programs that provide education, income assistance and health and wellness.

Michelle Purl, United Way of Lake and Sumter’s Community Investment director, said the organization targets specific priorities like school readiness, promoting academic achievement, promoting financial stability, reducing barriers to employment and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Purl said the charities who apply for grants each year are vetted to ensure that their direction is in line with that of the United Way and that they have good standing in the community.

“At United Way, our motto is Live United. That means working together to accomplish the same things,” Purl said.

Portions of the money also go to food pantries throughout Lake and Sumter, as well as in-house projects the United Way becomes involved with each year, like the Day of Caring, pajama and book drives and a VITA program that helps residents file their taxes.

Reardon said this year, the United Way is looking to develop an annual fundraising event to help acquire even more funding.

“We want a community-based, family-type event that will allow us to grow even further,” Reardon said.

Volunteering, the last aspect of the United Way motto, is another focus of the Workplace Campaign. Reardon said volunteering is essential to the success of all programs, whether it’s one United Way sponsor or others organized by the groups or charities the United Way helps fund.

Reardon said companies involved in the Workplace Campaign often contact her looking for community causes to become involved in. The United Way connects those people with organizations that can use whatever services are being made available.

Purl said in many instances, the United Way or its Workplace Campaign may not directly fund one specific cause, but without the campaign, the organizations that can help wouldn’t be able to without the funding they received as a result of it.

“We (United Way) are kind of that person behind the scenes, making things happen,” Purl said.

Crewell said the campaign, however, makes it all possible.

“The campaign helps us be able to reach out,” Purl said.