Online fundraiser helps local families affected by recent fires

An online, shareable fundraiser will help families impacted by recent fires in Benton and Franklin Counties.

The fundraiser was established by United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties this week after fires on Labor Day impacted families throughout the region. MaryAnne Wuennecke serves as the marketing and communications manager for the organization and said they’ll be partnering with other companies to help.

The Red Cross will help us figure out points of contact or organizations within each community that are right there and that know who needs the help and how to get it to them,” Wuennecke said.

United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties has assisted non-profit organizations in the region for the past 60 years. She said their goal is to fill in the gaps for critical services. After fires broke out on Labor Day due to heavy winds and down power lines, the American Red Cross started assisting families in crisis. The United Way can supplement some of those efforts by fundraising.

“The Red Cross is really busy right now,” she said, “Their focus may not be on fundraising. It’s on getting out there and getting boots on the ground. If this is a way that we can help, that means everything to us because that’s what we’re here for in this community.”

The organization is excited to share this new-and-improved fundraising system because of it’s easy to share system. It’s referred to as ‘peer-to-peer’ fundraising. By being able to link the fundraiser page to multiple social media platforms, websites and online boards, it can gain traction and hopefully reach more donors.

“They can share it and they can encourage people in their networks to share it to people that we may not have access to or know about,” Wuennecke said, “It really just helps get the word out there and really creates a community of people trying to help their community.”

The fundraiser will run through the month of September. Wuennecke said fires will hopefully subside in the area, but the extended time of fundraising is necessary to help the already affected people.

“With any kind of event or natural disaster, just because the fires maybe get put out in a few days, that doesn’t mean the recovery and the rebuilding is over,” she said,  “People will need help, um, down the road several weeks from now.”

The link to the fundraiser can be found here.