Note: The below story originally appeared in the Tulsa World. Scroll to the bottom to see Tim Lyons hit the bullseye!
By Kelsy Schlotthauer
Nov 17, 2021
Tim Lyons lifted the ax, drew back his elbow and let it fly.
The edged-weapon sliced through a paper proclaiming “$25,370,129” and stuck soundly into a slab of wood. Several Tulsa Area United Way representatives erupted into cheers and applause.
“We’re going to slay that $25 million,” the TTCU Federal Credit Union president and CEO said, half-jokingly and smiling.
The stunt was organized to call attention to the final days of the 2021 United Way fundraising campaign and address the shortfall.
The annual campaign — which supports 59 area partner agencies that address almost every issue in the community, from homelessness and hunger to job and legal assistance, senior citizens programs, substance abuse and mental health assistance — will end Thursday.
Lyons, along with fellow campaign co-manager Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith, attributed the gap to the economic fallout of the pandemic and high inflation.
Many businesses that have company campaigns now have to do so virtually, and some were greatly adversely affected by the pandemic.
“Overall it’s been a tough environment, but I’ll tell you what — the Tulsa community has just been so generous,” Lyons said. “We’re always amazed at the generosity that we have all the way down to some of our lowest-paid employees of our companies to the leaders of those companies. Everybody’s been generous.”
Lyons earlier explained that the massive goal isn’t some “made-up” number; it was carefully decided after nearly 200 volunteers spent thousands of hours doing site visits, performing evaluations and reviewing agency finances.
“We upped our goal from last year,” Keith said. “We’re trying to get back to prepandemic levels because the need is so great.
“If everybody chips in right now, we’ll get there.”
Since January, the co-chairs have been on a journey to visit each of TAUW’s partner agencies to see firsthand the critical work they’re doing.
On one of those visits, Lyons met with a couple who greatly benefitted from The Salvation Army’s transitional living program.
After living in their car for two years and losing custody of their toddler, the two had hit rock bottom. Through The Salvation Army’s program, the couple received temporary housing, drug addiction counseling and rehabilitation, and a local church to take them under its wing.
The man received job training at a welding school and landed a high-paying job; they won back custody of their 3-year-old son; and when Lyons met with them, they were a few days from closing on the purchase of their first home.
“That’s just one story out of thousands,” Lyons said. “They were so, so grateful.”
Keith talked about the pride, joy and drive she witnessed in participants of A New Leaf as she toured the organization’s green houses. The nonprofit provides individuals with disabilities life skills and marketable job training through horticulture therapy, vocational placement and residential services to increase their independence and individual choices.
“It’s likely that someone you know — a family member, friend, co-worker or even yourself — has benefitted from one of these agencies at one time or another, or you will,” Keith said. “It’s critical we meet our goal so these agencies can continue to do their amazing work they do each and every day to help thousands in our community.”
Everyone, children included, is invited to the Herman and Kate Kaiser YMCA on Thursday for the Unite! Campaign Celebration, where the total raised will be revealed. The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. and will include outdoor games, a 220-foot slide called the MoMo, and dinner with s’mores.
Attendees are encouraged to register before the free event at bit.ly/UCelebration.