AUGUSTA — The United Way of Kennebec Valley will now serve all of Kennebec County, adding Waterville, Winslow and seven other communities that were previously served by the United Way of Mid-Maine.

Officials from both organizations said the change, unifying all of Kennebec County under one United Way organization, is expected to make it more efficient to raise funds from — and for — residents and nonprofit groups in the county.

For the Augusta-based United Way of Kennebec Valley, it means an expansion from 20 to nearly 30 communities. The population in the organization’s service area is increasing — from 75,000 to 125,000 people.

Courtney Yeager

Courtney Yeager, executive director of United Way of Kennebec Valley, sought to assure nonprofit groups the agency helps fund that the organization won’t just be divvying up the same amount of money it raises amongst more places. It will be raising money from a wider area and consolidating fundraising efforts.

UWKV has already hired an additional worker to focus on the northern area of the county new to its service area. Yeager said they hope to established a physical presence in northern Kennebec County, such as a small office, as they move forward.

“We recognize the entire Kennebec County region needs to be better-served. There is a lot of need throughout Kennebec County,” she said Monday. “When we look at the needs in Waterville and northern Kennebec County, they are similar to the needs here; it’s how do we get people all moving in the same direction. It’s imperative we all work together, to bring the county back together in the United Way just makes sense, this is the right time.”

The United Way of Mid-Maine, previously based in Waterville but currently has its employees working remotely, will focus its fundraising and fund-providing efforts in its remaining — primarily rural — area, which includes all of Somerset County and several towns in Waldo County.

Al Smith, president and CEO of United Way of Mid-Maine, said he’s confident that United Way of Kennebec Valley advocates will be able to raise money in the nine communities.

“Courtney and her group are known by many of the same businesses and nonprofits within Kennebec Valley as we were,” Smith said Monday. “I see no issue in Kennebec Valley United Way matching and exceeding what we raised within a few years. The community is very supportive of the United Way and what we accomplish.”

In a typical year the United Way of Mid-Maine raises about $250,000, according to Smith. Its Community First Fund raised $125,000, with the normal campaign helping 23 nonprofits and the Community First Fund helping more than 50 nonprofits within the region. It has two employees.

Historically United Way of Kennebec Valley has raised about $1.7 million annually, to support 45 nonprofits and serving more than 20,000 local people a year. Yeager said last year, with a special fund setup to help nonprofits cope with the coronavirus pandemic, Kennebec Valley served more than 50,000 people, which works out to two out of every three people in its coverage area.

Yeager said the change was driven by businesses and donors in the area, particularly businesses which have operations in areas previously covered by two different United Way organizations. For some that meant two separate United Way fundraising campaigns within one company.

“As the leader of a business with multiple locations across Kennebec Valley, we recognize the value of having one regional campaign to eliminate the duplication of efforts and reduce the administrative burden,” Chuck Hays, MaineGeneral president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

The arrangement in which the two United Way entities split up the counties dated to their establishments, Mid-Maine in 1953, Kennebec Valley in 1955.

“Maybe it made sense at that time, but as we look at the times we’re in now, with consolidations of businesses across the board, this is the right time to put the county back together again,” Yeager said. “We met with all the nonprofits we both share, and all were excited about it. We’re hoping to let the entire community know that we can reduce overhead costs to really focus on the good work we’re doing, and serving more people overall.”

The change is also expected to make it easier for nonprofit organizations previously funded by both United Ways, because they won’t need to file for grants, at different times of the year, from two separate entities.

Dr. Barbara Covey, chairperson of the Waterville Community Dental Center, said the center previously received funding from both United Way chapters for its sliding fee dental program.

“For us, that meant writing two funding applications, tracking two sets of data, but essentially helping the same population,” she said. “Bringing all Kennebec County towns under one umbrella will enable us to better serve local people across the region.”

The communities involved are: Albion, Belgrade, Benton, Clinton, Mount Vernon, Oakland, Rome, Winslow and Waterville. Vassalboro and China, towns that the two organizations previously split based on zip codes, will fall into Kennebec Valley’s expanded region as well.

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