Text “Calhoun” to 26989, and with the push of a few buttons on your cellphone, you have donated to the United Way of Calhoun County.

Donations were down 14 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which drastically affected the allocations to the member organizations, said Wendy Cabrera, executive director of United Way of Calhoun County.

“A lot of these organizations rely upon these grants and donations, so it had a huge impact,” said Johnny Todd, chairman of this year’s fundraising drive, along with co-chair Rhonda Nielsen, owner of Nielsen Family Dental.

This year’s $330,000 goal is the same as last year’s. Unfortunately, it was not met last year, said Cabrera.

The campaign is still contactless, but local businesses and industries are ramping up their in-house campaigns to raise funds for the United Way.

The money will be used to fund 11 different organizations: Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach, Mid-Coast Family Services, Golden Crescent CASA (Court Appoint Special Advocate), Calhoun County Senior Citizens, STARS Clinic, Harbor Children’s Alliance & Victim Center, Boy Scouts of American – South Texas Council, Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas, YMCA of Calhoun County, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, and Calhoun County Community Ministries.

Cabrera said what is raised in Calhoun County stays in Calhoun County, noting that some of the organizations might be based in Victoria but have programs in Calhoun County.

“And we are very stiff about that,” said Todd. “They have to prove the money is used here.”

“We are very transparent about where the funding goes,” said Nielsen.

The board’s allocation team focuses not on where it thinks the funds should go but on where the need is in the community, said Todd.

The board is a diverse group that works and communicates well, which makes things easier, said Cabrera.

And, if you are interested in serving the community, Nielsen said they are searching for new board members.

“Any one of us can make a presentation to the board about a candidate. The board has final approval,” she said.

One of the goals this year is to raise awareness of the groups and organizations that serve the county, said Cabrera. She noted that many people often don’t know or are slightly aware of services in the county.

“Some people might not know we have a food pantry. They might know of The Harbor but not what it does, so raising awareness is part of the job,” she said.

“In our community, a lot of challenges are not being met, and somehow we have to find ways to meet those challenges,” said Nielsen.

Todd added that when things happen to people, they often have no or minimal awareness of services available, so they partner with these groups to make their services accessible at low or zero cost.

“It’s specifically to better our community. If you succeed, we all succeed,” said Todd. “We’re are trying to have in place the support you need to be successful.”

Events such as Saturday’s United Way Family Fun Day help bring all the partner organizations together with the community for a fun time. Since the pandemic, it has been a drive-thru event with drawings for prizes such as a bike.

On Saturday, more than 50 cars were lined up onto Commerce, waiting their turn through the event.

If you are interested in donating, you have several options on the website, UnitedWayByTheBay.org, to do so. You can choose a one-time donation, a monthly donation, or a Round-Up. You can also access these options via text message.

Cabrera said Round-Up was added last year, and it allows you to round up purchases for donation to the United Way.

“You can rest assured that if you give ten dollars, nine dollars and eighty cents of it is going back,” said Todd. “It goes where we say it goes. We have only one paid person. Everyone else is a volunteer.”