United Way for Dawson County celebrated the beginning of its annual fundraising with a barbeque benefit on Saturday at board member Jim Watson's Dawsonville home.
The Nov. 5 event included a BBQ lunch, musical entertainment, a bounce house and a closest to the pin golf challenge for $25 a ticket.
United Way partners with local non-profit organizations and helps them fund their projects. The BBQ event is the biggest fundraiser that the organization holds during the year.
Representatives from nearly all of their partnerships attended the event, along with United Way members both past and present, members of the community and their family and friends who had heard about the great food and even better cause.
"It makes your heart feel warm to see so many people here today," said Jim Watson. "When we first started doing the BBQ we had about 50 or 60 people attending, and today we passed the 200 mark."
Each spring, United Way presents its partners with an allocation of the money they have collected throughout the year. Chairman Clint Bearden said the group raised nearly $70,000 in 2015, and hope to raise $75,000 this year.
Watson said he wants to see that number double because of the good economy and the many new businesses coming into Dawson County. Watson also stressed that United Way is unique in that what they raise goes directly back to helping people within the county.
"One hundred percent of what we raise is distributed back to local agencies and the community," Watson said. "We have zero overhead, no salaried employees. And when we throw a function like this, we get a lot of donations and volunteers."
The BBQ event alone is expected to raise between $10,000 and $12,000, Watson said.
This year the group added a new partner, the Good Shepherd Clinic, a free healthcare clinic that provides services to uninsured people in the community.
"We're just so glad to be able to work with them and receive funding," said the clinic's manager Kay Parrish. "Especially since we've expanded our dental services- we need all the help we can get."
During a presentation at the BBQ, United Way members recognized event sponsors Summit Industrial Construction and Medical Plaza 400, a service of Northeast Georgia Health System, for their contributions.
Funds collected during the 2016 fundraising season will benefit: the American Red Cross Northeast Georgia Chapter, Damaged Child and Friends, Children's Center for Hope and Healing, Dawson County 4-H, Dawson County Family Connection, Dawson County Wee Books Program, Inc., Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, Good Shepherd Clinic of Dawson County, Hall-Dawson CASA Program, Next Generation Youth Development, Inc., NOA, Northeast Georgia Council of Boy Scouts of America, Rape Response, R.E.A.D. and St. Vincent DePaul.