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HOI United Way marks 100th anniversary, announces $9.1M in fundraising from 2021 campaign

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Heart of Illinois United Way
Heart of Illinois United Way marked its 100th anniversary with a celebration Wednesday night at the Par-A-Dice Hotel in East Peoria. HOI United way announced its 2021 fundraising campaign brought in $9.1 million in donations.

Heart of Illinois United Way President Jennifer Zammuto has a couple big reasons to feel excited. One is seeing her organization mark 100 years of service to the Greater Peoria community.

The other is a strong 2021 fundraising campaign that resulted in about 300 local companies and organizations making donations totaling more than $9.1 million.

“It’s truly an amazing feat. It says so much about this community, and the willingness of our citizens to give back of their time, their talents and their dollars,” said Zammuto.

Jennifer Zammuto

HOI United Way announced the campaign results during its 100th anniversary celebration Wednesday night at the Par-A-Dice Hotel in East Peoria, with around 200 guests in attendance.

“It's really been quite humbling when we look back at the archives of 100 years of articles and information about those that came before us,” said Zammuto. “It really says so much about those that we stand on the shoulders of, both volunteers and folks that worked at the United Way and at our partner agencies.

“We've had so many folks that are involved with us today whose grandparents and great grandparents were a part of our organization back when we started in 1921, which is just really heartwarming.”

HOI United Way estimates that programs the agency supports through the Community Impact Fund assist about one out of every three people living in the six-county Greater Peoria region.

“I think when a lot of people think about United Way, they maybe don't always know exactly what we do,” said Zammuto. “They think, ‘Oh, they do something with charities, and they're probably good,’ but we always encourage people to really understand what's happening with their dollars.”

Zammuto said they use a data-driven process to determine how to allocate the impact fund money.

“I think it's really important to note that we don't give to agencies, we give to programs,” said Zammuto. “So we have 45 partner agencies, and some of those have one funded program, some have up to five funded programs, or more.

“Each program is looked at individually on how it compares against other similar programs. So, we have three impact areas: education, financial stability, and health, and within each of those issue areas or impact areas, we have specific targets we’re trying to hit — like 85% of students achieving appropriate grade-level performance in math and reading, and so forth.”

Zammuto said the Peoria area has a significant need for the health and human care programs supported by funding from the United Way, addressing problems such as homelessness, food insecurity, and educational needs.

“This isn't where one nonprofit or one program can simply change the trajectory of someone, but it's that layered effect of maybe getting your housing taken care of, and making sure you've got your basic needs met so that you can go to school, and you can learn because your stomach's not empty, and the parents and the students both have the training and the education they need to move forward so that they can get a family living wage job,” she said.

“The more that we can collaborate and layer those resources together for those in our community in need, that is the best way that we can address the root causes of poverty and other challenges both in the short term and in the long term.”

Zammuto said the full 2021 campaign total — $9,115,359 — was slightly more than a year ago, seeing that as an encouraging sign as communities and individuals continue to cope with the economic impact from COVID-19.

Eleven corporate gifts increased by more than 10% from the previous year, as did donations from 53 organizations. Additionally, the 2021 effort included 14 new corporate gifts and 22 first-time employee campaigns.

“I think it tells us that people like the way that we invest the dollars,” said Zammuto. “One of the things that we don't do at the United Way is we never sit back on our laurels and just assume that how we're doing things is right.

“We're always reevaluating and questioning ourselves and our process, so we will keep doing that to ensure we can continue to provide the best value for our six county region.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.