Leaders look to breathe life into United Way

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 08:55 AM

Local leaders are ramping up their efforts to restart the Sevier County United Way, looking to add new members to the board of directors and to meet with the agencies the group serves in the next few weeks.

The previous board of directors stepped down en masse last year, but as their last act they transferred their offices to Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters, the mayors of the county’s four cities, and Sevier County Economic Development Director Allen Newton. That group has been meeting regularly since, and at a meeting Wednesday they made plans they hope will chart the course to recovery for the organization, which provided funding for 19 nonprofit agencies serving the county.

For starters, they convinced local businessman Earl Worsham to help start a new de Tocqueville Society — a secondary organization that raises money to cover the business and overhead costs for United Way chapters, seeing that as much of the donations as possible raised by United Way go straight to the charities and nonprofits serviced by the agency.

“I’m delighted to see this new board and the leadership you’ve got,” Worsham told the board members.

Worsham helped start the county’s original de Tocqueville Society several years ago, and said he would be happy to help in restarting it, although he might not be as active as they were the first time around.

For the time being, the United Way still has reserve funds to cover its month-to-month expenses, Newton said.

While the local government leaders aren’t stepping down, they are looking to expand the board’s membership to around 15 people. They will be talking to leaders in their community over the next few weeks, and hope to have nominees when they meet again next month.

They are hoping to meet with the local nonprofits and agencies once served by United Way soon after that meeting.

Those member organizations include the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic, Office on Aging and The Seymour Volunteer Fire Department.

Most of the groups have said they are not counting on funding from the United Way in their upcoming budget, but would welcome the return of the agency.

 jfarrell@themountainpress.com