For Six Hundred Downtown owner Brittany Saxton, food equals community. The five-time World Pizza Champion loves being a restuarateur because a good meal with others can feed not only the body, but the spirit.
"Everybody eats," Saxton says. "So when we break bread, it's a way to bring people together. It's a way to start conversations. And it makes people happy."
That's why it distresses Saxton to know that food insecurity remains an issue in 21st Century America, and in Logan County in particular, where 10 percent of our population lacks regular access to adequate nutritious foods. To put it in perspective, seven United Way funded partners combined to serve 971,345 meals last year in Logan County.
"It blows my mind," Saxton said. "It's 2023. Nobody should struggle with food. Or be worried about where it's going to come from. But it also makes me happy that we have those resources, because without them, that's a million meals not eaten."
Saxton wants to make sure those resources and others remain available for those who need them. That's why she's serving as the 2023 Campaign Chair for United Way of Logan County this fall, working to help raise $1 million for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. Saxton is investing her time and energy in the cause by launching her "Pie It Forward" program this fall, which will engage diners to make a contribution toward local food relief. She and her team already provide freshly prepared Six Hundred Downtown fare once a month to Our Daily Bread at Lutheran Community Services so those eating at the soup kitchen can experience their world famous pizza at dinner.
Saxton encourages other small business owners and local residents to find ways to give back through the United Way Campaign, which kicks off August 25.
"It's super important to look at United Way when you're thinking about giving into your community because it's such a hub of so many different organizations and so many impactful ways that really alleviate so many of the stresses local families face with insecurities about where the necessities are going to come from," she said. "United Way is a resource where you can send anybody who is struggling in life and it's a solution or at least a help to get to that bridge. It's really nice to have that in our local community and know that so many facets are getting taken care of."
Beyond food, United Way is working to address gaps identified in the 2023 Community Needs Assessment. 10 grants totaling over $44,000 has already been awarded this year to new partners working to improve the mental health of students and adults in Logan County. That's in addition to on-going allocations for Recovery Zone's peer support and in-school screenings for teens through TCN Behavioral Health. The Housing Stability Program has helped prevent 136 evictions or utility shutoffs as affordable housing becomes more and more of a challenge. As senior citizens become the fastest growing segment of our population, United Way's investment in RTC Services transportation for elderly, Green Hills Community's Daybreak and Hospice care, and Life Care Alliance meals-on-wheels Opportunities eclipses more than $170,000. And educational opportunities abound for youth, beginning with 1,900 preschoolers receiving a Dolly Parton Imagination Library book in the mail every month. In all, United Way supports 47 programs of 26 agencies in Logan County.
"93 percent of what you give is going to help people right here," said Saxton. "United Way has proven to our community where our money is going, they show us, and make it very easy to give."
Saxton lives in Bellefontaine with her boyfriend, Landon Butler, and her three children.
"I love the energy this community has. Logan County is so alive and everybody is so generous and thoughtful of one another. It's a good place to call home."
Logan County remains the smallest community in Ohio to ever have a $1 million campaign for its local United Way, and it's now happened five years in a row, with $1.1 million achieved last year.
United Way is the philanthropic hub of Logan County. Since 1955, generations of local residents and businesses make their charitable impact through United Way. When you give to United Way, you become a part of a long-standing solution that works to positively influence the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Logan County. More than just a fundraiser, United Way collaborates with businesses, non-profits, government, and civic organizations to address the growing needs of our community. No gift is too large or too small, as your contributions of time and treasure unite with those of others to make a difference here at home.