Every fall, United Way of Howard and Tipton Counties receives upwards of 10 loaned associates to work on the nonprofit’s annual campaign, and earlier this month, former and current associates gathered for a reunion.
The loaned associate tradition, which has been ongoing in Howard County since 1986, has become a thing of the past in many other communities as businesses no longer can afford to “loan” out employees for months at a time to help United Ways. As a way to say “thank you” to those who have participated, the local United Way put on a reunion at Tin Man.
“The loaned associate program absolutely has sustained United Way and the community for a very long time, and we could not bring in the campaign without them,” said Abbie Smith, president of United Way of Howard and Tipton Counties. “It’s a gift that we still have this in the community for sure, and we’re grateful to the companies that loan their employees to us.”
Among the attendees was former loaned associate Tammy Mohr. Mohr, according to available records, served the most years out of any other loaned associate. On behalf of then-Chrysler and UAW 685, she worked as a loaned associate from 1997 to 2009.
Those 12 years, she said, were full of great memories.
As a loaned associate, she was tasked with spreading the word of what United Way did in an effort to raise funding for the annual campaigns. During her 12 years as an associate, she helped develop and run several unique fund raisers.
One fund raiser that was a big hit was bringing the Harlem Globetrotters to Kokomo for the first time. Back then, the exhibition basketball team had never been to Howard County or any of the surrounding counties, Mohr said.
She and other loaned associates sold tickets to see the Globetrotters perform at Memorial Gym and sold “Magic Circle” VIP tickets that included a meet and greet and commemorative gear from the Globetrotters. The fund raiser was so successful that Mohr and her fellow associates oversold the gym and had to turn people away.
Another year, a brand-new house on the city’s west side was raffled off. For $75 a ticket, people had the chance to win the house that had been stocked with top-of-the-line furniture and equipment. Those who purchased a ticket received a key to try in the front door. If it worked, they won the house.
A fund raiser Mohr also enjoyed was the “Rocking Chair Challenge.” The idea came from a woman named Pat Paulus who worked at Delphi.
“She told the story of a rocking chair and what it means to people, like when you’re rocked as a baby, the comforting effect, just like United Way would be, and related it to United Way like that,” she said.
With that, the loaned associates challenged the community to decorate rocking chairs, and they then were set up in the Markland Mall and auctioned off. There were about 70 rocking chairs the first year. The fund raiser continued for several years.
Aside from the fund raisers, Mohr helped other loaned associates become more successful in their campaigns. Mohr was always given the most difficult accounts in the community to land because she enjoyed a challenge, she said. What she found, though, was that some of the accounts were hard to land because the businesses were requiring employees to attend the presentations early in the morning, requiring some employees to rearrange their schedules.
Mohr put a stop to that. Instead of requiring employees to work around her schedule, she insisted she would work around theirs.
“What they were doing is, for example, each one of the banks would make everybody go to the main branch early in the morning. The employees would have to rearrange all of their kids getting on the bus and all that, so I said, ‘I’m out at Chrysler. I’ll come to every branch.’ I went to every branch at Howard County banks, and it was a 150-percent increase (in giving),” she said.
Mohr’s time as a loaned associate overlapped with former loaned associate Troy Bowers, who served from 2000 to 2002. Bowers remembered Mohr’s success and how it changed how other loaned associates approached a lot of accounts.
One of Bowers’ favorite parts of campaign season always was working the Taste of Kokomo, a community event that raised tens of thousands of dollars for United Way annually. After 19 years, the event ended in 2015.
Bowers also thought back to another task that wasn’t fondly remembered: the cold call list.
“We had accounts like you do now, but we did a lot of cold calls. We had cold call lists that we would have to work, and if you weren’t doing something else, you better be on that cold call list trying to work that down,” he said. “You wanted to stay busy because the cold calls are the hardest thing because nobody wants you there.”
Current loaned associate Kenny Gregory also was in attendance. On behalf of Haynes International, Gregory has served as a loaned associate since 2015, and he said the experience has been eye-opening. The first year, he was sent to a whistle-stop food pantry, and he said he developed a passion for the nonprofit at that moment as he watched the community supply food to those in need.
“We have a great community. There are tons of people that are always friendly when we go in, always accommodating. It’s a great program, and it gives opportunities for employees at the different factories to become leaders in the community,” he said.
In the past, Ivy Tech Community College supplied loaned associates, and former associate Ken Ferris served on behalf of the college in 2014. While he was able to help United Way, he said he also got a lot of value out of it as well.
“I teach government, and they say the best kind of government is the most local you can get. That’s about as local as you can get, and it was interesting,” Ferris said.
As United Way’s 2019 campaign is underway, the nonprofit currently has eight loaned associates on board representing UAW 1302, USW 2958, UAW 685, UAW 1166, and UAW 292.