Campaign Co-chairs Offer “United” Front to Raise Support

It’s a match made in hopes for a strong financial finish. David Smith and Shawn Ellis are co-chairs for the United Way of Whitley County’s 2015 annual fundraising campaign.

“We are excited to have both David and Shawn leading our campaign this year,” said United Way of Whitley County Executive Director Cindy Baker. “They both know first-hand the impact United Way has on Whitley County. Their passion for what we can do to make a difference is contagious.”

Smith, who is the market president for Star Financial Bank, is no stranger to leading a campaign. This is his second time as a chairperson and his second term as a board member.

“I choose to get involved and stay involved with United Way because it assesses the needs in Whitley County in a unique way,” said Smith. “It gathers resources to support organizations throughout our county. For those who want to be philanthropic, United Way helps to distribute funds where they are needed most. It provides a conduit for people to give and do so effectively.”

As the current co-chair, Smith’s perspective as a business leader allows him to speak to other business owners that exist in Whitley County who might consider financially supporting the campaign.

“I think we have a responsibility to understand the need in our community and do something about it,” said Smith. “What does it say about me if I sit in my corner office in downtown Columbia City while people walk past my doors needing the very help I could provide? We have to give to change lives. We need a way to provide support and help where it’s needed most. United Way does just that. It takes my efforts and multiplies it throughout the county, ensuring the dollars work at their best.”

In 2016, Whitley County nonprofits will submit applications for grant dollars awarded by the United Way through a selection and interview process. The funds raised during the campaign are used to fund those grants.

“The dollars raised here, stay here,” Smith said. “United Way gives donors confidence that their dollars are doing the best work possible right here in our community. The grant process is thorough and includes an application process, as well as updates and face-to-face communication with those nonprofits United Way supports.”

Feeling the impact of those grant dollars is Smith’s counterpart and co-chair Shawn Ellis. Ellis is the executive director for B.A.B.E., a Whitley County nonprofit that serves expectant mothers, children and families.

“When people give to United Way, they aren’t just supporting a program, but the people those programs serve,” said Ellis. “When you give, even the smallest donation, you are giving to support the lives changed by the work done through so many nonprofit groups. We are all quick to say how we’d like to make our community better; this is it. This is how we stretch dollars across the county to make the greatest difference.”

Those who choose to give to the United Way of Whitley County, may feel as if their financial support is called on once a year during the campaign period. However, Ellis knows first-hand the support is felt throughout the year.

“I want those who give to know the impact their dollars have. Not just by my organization, but by the whole county,” said Ellis. “Each dollar is grown and enhanced to create ripple effects that last.”

Community members who know Ellis might wonder why she would choose to advocate for another nonprofit when she could devote her voice solely for B.A.B.E.  However, Ellis doesn’t see it as a competition, but as a way to directly benefit the county as a whole.

“I don’t benefit if B.A.B.E. is successful and other nonprofits aren’t,” Ellis said. “The nonprofits in our community work together to support each other and to fill a variety of needs. So while B.A.B.E. might be able to create healthier families, it doesn’t do any good if the children of those families go off to school and have no after-school support like what is offered at The Center for Whitley County Youth. Each nonprofit, supported and funded through United Way, is able to focus on serving. We all benefit from each dollar raised. On my own, I can’t raise the kind of money United Way can. I am very grateful for the grants we receive and know what a real difference it makes.”

For more information on contributing to United Way of Whitley County to support local programs and services, visit or call 244-6454.

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