United Fund and United Way to merge

Charitable groups in Elkhart, LaGrange counties to combine efforts

After a yearlong process of exploration, United Fund of LaGrange County and United Way of Elkhart County will become a new entity, organizers announced Monday. 

Each county will continue to raise money and address the most pressing issues in their communities while maintaining all existing staff, organizers said. 

The creation of the regional program has also allowed the two organizations to apply for a $50,000 grant that, if recieved, will be added to the estimated $2 million budget of United Way of Elkhart County and $60,000 budget of United Fund of LaGrange County.

“The foundation of our organization is to serve our community in the best possible way,” said Mimi Wismer, executive director of United Fund of LaGrange County. “This merger gives us the ability to adapt with the changing times and build a stronger network through collaboration.”

Operating for the past six decades years, United Fund continues to function with just one part-time employee, the executive director.

CEO of United Way of Elkhart County Bill Reith realized during discussions with the nonprofit that it would be better able to serve its community with more manpower, which United Way can offer.

“Over time we believe this will result in being able to raise more funds and benefit more lives,” Reith said. “It gives us the ability for our donors to more easily support things in LaGrange and Elkhart counties – or for nonprofits that work in those communities we partner with, it will be easier to impact people across both counties using the resources that we help with.”

According to the groups, the vision for the new entity is to improve people’s lives and strengthen communities by ensuring all residents of both counties have access to the basic building blocks of a good life: a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and access to quality health care.

“The Board of the Elkhart United Way believes this merger is the best way to serve our donors and agencies,” Reith said. “The challenges facing our communities do not recognize city boundaries or county lines.”

This larger United Way will be able to partner with local and regional organizations and attract new funding from individual and corporate donors who are more interested in wider geographic programs that serve a greater number of people, influence social change and solve more problems, he said. 

Officials said donors and stakeholders should see little change other than the new name: United Way of Elkhart and LaGrange Counties.

Coordination with volunteers and community leaders will continue to help guide local strategies, programs and fundraising, organizers said. 

An event to announce the merger is scheduled for Friday at Blue Gate Restaurant in Shipshewana. 

Elkhart Truth Staff,