Making a Difference

October 17, 2018

United Way Drive Supports, Strengthens Norman Community

by Sharla Bardin

Linda Pounds is grateful for the generosity and good works she sees from the United Way of Norman.

“We have supported United Way,” Pounds said about her family. “I think they are so important in the community.”

Pounds also has seen firsthand how the organization helps agencies in Norman. Her son, Andrew, is involved in Among Friends, an activity center for adults with disabilities. The nonprofit is one of 28 organizations that receive funding from the United Way.

“I feel like Andrew is really fortunate to have found this place, and I’m really fortunate to have found it,” Pounds said.

The United Way’s annual campaign is underway, raising money to assist partner agencies. The campaign is an opportunity for residents to come together to address community needs, said Daren Wilson, president and CEO of United Way of Norman.

“When someone gives to the United Way, their money is staying local and it’s given to the 28 nonprofits serving our neighbors, our families and our co-workers that may find themselves in need,” Wilson said.

This year’s goal is to raise $1.9 million, and the campaign will continue through the end of the year. Funds are raised through such efforts as workplace campaigns and individual donations, Wilson said.

The money then helps programs in the community that focus on education, financial stability, health and independence, playing a pivotal role in each program’s operations, said Chris Bojarski, operations director at Among Friends.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for United Way,” Bojarski said. “United Way has allowed us to grow so much.”

Among Friends started in 2003 and offers a setting for adults with special needs to meet new people, build social skills and participate in activities. Individuals pay a monthly membership at the center at 1185 E Main St.

One of the activities available is a health and wellness class. Bojarski said United Way funding helped provide for additional space for the wellness program. United Way assistance also supports other initiatives at Among Friends, such as a space for the gardening and cooking program. Bojarski said he believes Among Friends has made a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities by giving them a place to gain friendships and enhance life skills.

Pounds said her son loves being a member. The 26-year-old has been coming to the center since 2014.

“He fit right in,” she said of her son, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. “They became like a second family to him. My son’s life would be much less full without it,” Pounds said.

The United Way campaign not only assists programs for people with special needs but also supports initiatives that aid infants, students, people who are homeless, those dealing with a natural disaster and programs for senior citizens.

Giving to the campaign creates a lasting impact for the agencies, Wilson said.
“In our drive and in our campaign, every single dollar makes a difference.”

For more information about United Way programs or to donate, visit – BSM