Ron Buerges is the campaign chairman for the Illinois Division of the United Way of Greater St. Louis' 2009 campaign. He has supported the United Way over the past 25 years and is looking to exceed last year's goals. The Allsup Inc. executive recently talked with business reporter Will Buss about the upcoming campaign:
Q: When did you first get involved in the United Way?
A: "I have been involved and have been financially supportive of the United Way since my first job in 1983. I have committed to it financially and supported it every year since I was out of school. I've been on the board of directors on the Illinois side."
Q: Where were you working when you first joined the campaign?
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A: "I started my career at Ernst & Young in St. Louis. It's an international accounting firm. I started there out of school in '83. I was there for 10 years and moved to the Magna group. Remember Magna Banks? I was there for five years until Union Planters acquired them, and then I went to Allsup and have been here for the last 10 years. I have been in the St. Louis area all of my life."
Q: What accomplishments have you seen in your time at Allsup?
A: "At Allsup, we represent disabled individuals in the Social Security Administration. We truly help people every day that are in need of help. I feel like the United Way is a perfect fit at Allsup. We run a strong employee campaign. That's what it takes. It takes everyone involved to unite. If we can get few dollars from everyone, it really adds up. At Allsup, we've been growing steadily for the past 10 years. We are up to 600 employees now. We plan to continue to grow. When I started in 1999, we had 120 employees. The need for our service nationwide and what we do to help through the Social Security Administration, all people we help need our assistance to get then benefits. They truly deserve our corporate strategy to maximize people's lives that have been hit with disabling conditions. Many of them are not prepared financially for what happened. Their life has been turned upside down. Our goal is to reclaim their lives and maximize what they can do with limited income and resources. We have been growing by double-digits for the last five to seven years, a pace that we continue to grow and expand here. We're just a key player in the Belleville market."
Q: What are your goals for this year's United Way campaign?
A: "Last year was very strong. Last year, we raised $1.677 million, which was strong. It was 7 percent growth over the year before. We set our goal on the Illinois side for 2009 at $1.691 million. That is a challenging goal. It would have been easy for us to say the economy is tough, employment is down, we should set our goal a little lower. Although that was realistic, we as a group strongly feel that we need to do more. There are has never been as many people in community in need. Many people are using food banks for the first time ever and calls to the United Way are up. If you need help, call us at 211. It's something we're trying to promote. 211 is United Way's supported call center that people can call with any need, and hopefully United Way can put them in touch with proper agencies with whatever need they have, housing, financial, depression, alcohol abuse. It's a tremendous resource anyone in our community can use. Those calls are up 50 percent over last year. In June, calling more than 8,000 people called our local line. I feel we are going to achieve this stronger goal. Our local community can step up to help everyone better than anyone community we've seen. Obviously, the need is higher than it ever has been."
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: "I am never bored. We are challenged every day. It's fun to be in a growing and thriving organization. I work for Jim Allsup directly. He's an innovator, and we're just never bored striving to come up with new products and services to help individuals meet that chance and daily living. It's never a dull moment here."