The United Way of Lee County is preparing for the kickoff of its annual campaign — which will look a little different this year.

The United Way of Lee County works as a nonprofit to support 25 agencies in the area, including organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of Lee County and Unity Wellness.

Each agency asks the United Way for funding annually, which is reviewed by an allocation committee.

“The focus areas are health education, crisis and strengthening families,” said Leigh Krehling. 

Richard B Curry, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County said that the last thirty years would not have been possible without the partnership with the United Way of Lee County.

“When you invest in United Way, it’s more than money, right?” Curry said. “It’s STEM, its tech, its dance, its cheer, its arts, its basketball, it’s gardening, it’s all these other things that are happening at the Boys and Girls Club.”

For example, one boy participating in Boys and Girls Club has started his own, successful, lemonade stand. And Curry said the Boys and Girls Club wants to help him take it to the next level as part of career readiness.

“Again, your investment in United Way is more than money,” Curry said. “It’s mission, it’s hopes, it’s dreams, it’s the Isaacs, it’s his peers and at one point in my life, when I was growing up as a club kid, it was me. And so, I can’t speak highly enough of the relationship that Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County has always had with United Way of Lee County.”

The partnership has also allowed the Boys and Girls Club to connect with the other agencies supported by United Way, Curry said.

“The magic that happens is literally in every agency that they serve,” Curry said.

Another one of these agencies is Unity Wellness in Opelika, a center that treats and cares for those with HIV, said Lakeisha Dowdell, the prevention education counselor at Unity Wellness.

“At Unity Wellness Center, we see people regardless of their status, regardless of their income, we are there to take care of them during their need,” she said.

Dowdell shared a story of a young woman who was told her partner was HIV positive, took a rapid test herself and found out she, too, was HIV positive.

Through the care at Unity Wellness, however, she is able to live a normal life, Dowdell said. This care included information, support, transportation and help finding a program to pay for her medication.

“This young lady is healthy, she is adhering and she’s taking her medication,” she said. “She is in a stable home where at one point she didn’t have anywhere to call home. She has a stable job. This young lady is now the mother of a healthy baby and the baby is HIV negative. She is negative because her mother had access. Her mother had access to substance abuse training. Her mother had access to our facility. Her mother had access to healthcare. Her mother had access to support where she didn’t have anywhere else.”

Instead of United Way’s usual campaign kickoff, this year they will host ‘Feed The Need’ on Aug. 4, from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Food Bank of East Alabama.

One hundred volunteers will be there stuffing non-perishables for 20,000 local people, Krehling said.

“It’s just a way for us to fellowship with each other that morning and get to know each other better and do something great for our community,” she said.

The campaign will begin Aug. 4 and run through Dec. 15, with different events throughout that time period, including the Boo Box Sale, ‘Lead the Way Wednesday’ and Santa on the Corner.