For the second year in a row, Chuck and Sarah Jones have made the biggest donation to the Murray-Calloway County United Way in the organization’s history – only this time, the amount is close to triple last year’s amount.
The Joneses set the previous record for the United Way’s largest individual donation last December when they contributed $50,000 to the fundraising campaign. This week, they topped that considerably with a donation of $140,000 – half of the overall goal of $280,000 for the 2011 campaign.
Chuck Jones is the founder of C.A. Jones Management Group, LLC, which oversees several local businesses, including Southeastern Book Company, College Book Renter, University Book & Bean and Elements Home and Gifts. Sarah Jones runs Vintage Rose Emporium, which she bought in 2001, according to the store’s website. They have a daughter, Chaney Curd, 15, and a son, Jack Jones, 7.
Aaron Dail, United Way’s director of resource development, said the donation puts the organization within $40,000 of meeting its fundraising goal. He said he wouldn’t know if United Way had hit its target until the end of the year because he is waiting for several local campaigns to finish and turn in the their final reports. He said some out-of-town contributors also typically turn in money at the end of the year. The United Way supports 15 different programs within nine separate non-profit agencies, he said.
“It’s a game-changing gift,” Dail said of the Jones’ donation. “It’s the largest gift we’ve ever received in our history of being a United Way, and it speaks to the aspirations of Chuck and Sarah and many in other circles of the community about what we want to have our community be. This is one of those efforts that is going to help push it even further.”
Chuck Jones said it might surprise people that he and Sarah would give such a significantly larger amount than last year, but that they wanted to prove their commitment to making Murray and Calloway County a better place to live. The amount they gave last year was one of the factors that led to the Murray Calloway County Chamber of Commerce giving him the award last July for Citizen of the Year, but Chuck said he didn’t want that to be considered a lifetime achievement award.
“I didn’t feel like that was the end of it; it’s more the beginning,” he said.
Chuck said the United Way was a good steward of the money it receives, and that he likes the way it divides its funds between the agencies it supports. Each of those organizations has to show how they are spending their money and how that contributes to their missions. He said he also likes knowing that its funds will be used for people who need immediate help.
“I’m not interested in sitting on the money,” he said. “I’m interested in it being used right now.”
United Way Board Chairman Lance Allison said he met with Chuck about 1 1/2 years ago to talk to him about making a large donation. At the time of last year’s donation, Allison told Chuck he hoped he would make a similar contribution in the future.
“This year, with him practically tripling it, I feel like it showed that we did do what we told him we would do,” Allison said. “That’s important to him. He doesn’t just give out money for the sake of giving out money. He wants it to go to work in the community right away.”
Allison added that, just as United Way kept its promise to the Joneses, they kept their promise to United Way.
“There’s a lot of people out there that have money and they don’t put it to work the way he’s been doing it,” he said.
Chuck said he has busy in other ways in the last three weeks, as well. He decided to take a total of 400 children shopping for clothes who couldn’t be covered by the Calloway County School District’s Santa Project and the Murray Independent School District’s Tiger Christmas. He said he also gave $20,000 to Need Line to fill its Christmas baskets. He said he wanted to challenge everyone in the community to give what they could.