The United Way of West Ellis County kicked off its fundraising season with an after hours reception Thursday at the Mid-Way Regional Airport.

The Waxahachie and Midlothian Chambers of Commerce members, business owners and community leaders gathered to hear how they can assist the community and those in need through supporting the United Way.

“This is the time of year that we work with our partner employers and talk to their employees. We tell them what the United Way does for our community and ask them to participate in our campaign,” Executive Director Casey Ballard said. “Everything we do here is local, the money we raise is local, and the agencies who receive the money are local.”

The UWWEC's goal this year is to raise $400,000 through donations, which will then assist more than 30 nonprofits and benefit West Ellis County residents.

“In 2013 the United Way will award $337,000 to 28 different agencies. To give you an idea of how many people that impacts, 1,700 children will receive a direct aid,” Ballard said. “That number doesn't even include the hundreds of kids who receive help from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, or whose teachers receive innovative teaching grants, or the number of kids who receive Christmas presents or back-to-school supplies.”

She went on to point out the ways that adults receive health care aid, financial assistance and disaster relief.

“About 10,000 people will receive assistance through food pantries, rent pay and bill assistance alone,” Ballard said.

The UWWEC's chairman this year, Clint Almand, talked about the United Way's campaign.

“Our campaign is not about us going to corporations and asking for corporate dollars. It's all about us going to individuals and asking for individual dollars, so we're spreading awareness of what it is we do,” Almand said. “The majority of dollars we raise are through individuals, so any individual donation, of any amount, is immensely important to us.”

To encourage other United Way partners in their fundraising and to iterate Almand's point that every dollar matters, Oncor, H-E-B and Walgreens representatives presented checks to the UWWEC from their employee campaign's to kick off this year's fundraising season.

Oncor Area Manager Paul Hernandez handed Almand a check for $1,500. H-E-B Director Bruce Glaves said their donations are up 30 percent from last year, presenting a check for $30,220. Walgreens Distribution representative Keya Walker said their campaign is in the final stages of totaling its contributions, which she estimated as $20,000-25,000.

“What we do is wonderful work and all we have to do is get a few minutes of an individual's ear and tell what we do and they want to give money, and the money we get we give to great organizations, services and agencies across the county,” Almand said.

Ballard encouraged employers to host a presentation or start a campaign for their employees.

“Hosting a United Way campaign is really quite simple, and we can do it a number of ways. We can come out and talk to your employees, we can do an email campaign with your employees, but the first thing to do is just give us a call,” she said.

To contact the United Way of West Ellis County call 972-723-9280 or go online at www.westelliscountyuw.org.