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MailTribune.com
  • A World Of Difference

  • Dee Anne Everson beams when she watches a YouTube video titled "A Pep Talk from Kid President to You."
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  • Dee Anne Everson beams when she watches a YouTube video titled "A Pep Talk from Kid President to You."
    It features a young boy dressed in a suit, delivering a speech that's intended to make otherwise-apathetic folks rise to their feet and make a difference.
    "What will you create that'll make the world awesome?" the boy asks. "Nothing if you keep sitting there."
    It might as well be Everson's mantra. As director of United Way of Jackson County for 17 years, she's exhibited that kind of attitude herself.
    The agency spearheads an annual fundraising campaign and distributes the money to more than 70 nonprofit agencies, including organizations such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and CASA.
    But Everson has expanded the role, and the very idea, of United Way far beyond an annual exercise in fundraising, turning the organization into an agent for change. United Way was among the leaders in the community in creating the Meth Task Force that ramped up education about the dangers and the costs of the highly addictive drug.
    In 2009, Everson was the driving force behind the Jackson County Child Abuse Network, a multi-agency group intended to increase awareness of child abuse and coordinate prevention efforts.
    "That's the bottom line, right?" says Everson, 55. "We all have the responsibility to make the world just a little bit better."
    Everson joined United Way of Jackson County in 1996 after working as a banking economist in Arizona and Seattle.
    Growing up, her father was a United Way campaign chair, but beyond that, she knew little of what the organization did.
    "I'd heard of it, knew it, but didn't necessarily understand as a kid," Everson says.
    Then she moved to Medford in 1995 and was asked to do a needs assessment project for United Way. Eventually, she found herself in the director's chair.
    "Through a series of meeting people, I ended up working here," Everson says.
    It was the first time Everson remembers feeling truly humbled. She was suddenly the head of an organization that collected upwards of $1 million a year from thousands of donors who trusted her agency to utilize their money appropriately. About 80 percent of United Way funds go to organizations, while 11 percent covers fundraising costs and 9 percent pays management.
    But money isn't the end-all in addressing problems such as hunger, substance abuse and homelessness, Everson says. Volunteers are key, too, and United Way of Jackson County boasts about 1,500 of them.
    "Nonprofits are the voluntary sector, so people are the most important," Everson says. "It's how all of us create change; with volunteers. You can't do it by money alone."
    Nonprofit leaders credit Everson as having a good balance of warmth and professionalism.
    "She's amazingly creative and visionary and open to just any and all ideas," says Mary-Curtis Gramley of the Family Nurturing Center. "I think that encourages those of us who are trying to think broadly about the needs of the community."
    Tom Cole, Kids Unlimited executive director, says Everson's encouragement helped get KU off the ground.
    "Dee Anne was just a tremendous advocate," Cole says. "For her to have the courage in her position of leadership to be an advocate for kids who ... had very little voice created an immediate connection."
    Everson's idea well hasn't run dry yet. She recently pitched "The Big Idea" to the Medford School Board, a campaign intended to get more Jackson County high-schoolers to graduate.
    "Because they're not, and it's really not OK," she says.
    Everson says she hopes more locals will get involved in bettering the community, even if they're not sure where to start.
    "If there's something you've been dying to do, and you haven't figured out how to do it, call me. I'll talk to you," she says. "We'll figure out where you should be, and how you can give back in a way that gives meaning to your life."
    Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.
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