Service to the community – Kurt Brummett and the United Way

Published 6:56 pm Thursday, March 14, 2024

Profile 2024: Service to the community – Kurt Brummett  and the United Way 

By Denise Strub

Community, partnership and service are three words you will hear often when talking to Kurt Brummett, executive director of the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County. 

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For Brummett, these words form a philosophy of not just the United Way, but also of his personal life. “I try to always look at what’s best for the community as opposed to what’s best for the United Way,” he said. “Everything we do is a partnership.”

Brummett grew up in Tremont, located in Central Illinois, but he spent holidays and vacations in Oxford. “My family was from here and I always like to say when other people went to the beach or the mountains or Disney World for vacations, we came to Oxford for two weeks to visit family,” he said.

“My mom was actually here when they consolidated the county schools. She was a part of the first graduating class of Lafayette. When they four-laned Highway 6 between Oxford and Pontotoc, it took the house where dad grew up.”

Brummett said he obtained his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Mississippi. “I came here in ’96 with plans of ‘walking on’ on the baseball team, but I hurt my arm that summer,” he explained. “Then Donny Kessinger, who was the coach, retired and there was a new staff. So I never ended up playing the baseball side. But I came to school and stayed six years and continued to live here.”

Brummett worked at Three Rivers Planning and Development District for 14 years before taking his position with the United Way in 2016.

“(With Three Rivers), I was doing everything from securing grant funding to helping Toyota locate here,” he said, adding he also worked on recruiting Winchester to the area.

Brummett said though that work was rewarding, he believes the United Way offers him a chance to do something a little more impactful and personal. “I get to work with the amazing organizations and people here,” he said. “I could really see what a giving and philanthropic community (Oxford) was.”

He also said working with United Way has given him the opportunity to spend more time with his son, who is a freshman in high school.

“I remember we went to the pumpkin patch one time and they had us split up in groups and made us come up with a name for our group, which was like Run LMC, or something,” he said. “But then I went later and had lunch at the school and saw the kids from our group. Seeing them and just knowing it’s the little things that can make an impact.”

Brummett said the United Way offers the opportunity to work with a variety of organizations and people in the community. 

“Everytime you go somewhere, you are going to run across someone who knows someone who has benefited or who has benefited through the United Way,” he said. “Remember there are no income-related criteria when it comes to child abuse or domestic violence or tutoring assistance; it could be anybody.”

Brummett said he is grateful for the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing people in the community. “I have an amazing board and amazing grant recipients,” he said. “It’s all about being a team. We (the United Way) are a one-person staff, but our team numbers in the hundreds and thousands in the community.

“So, many think it takes a huge donation to be a part of our team, but $2 is enough for one book through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and that could be The Book that helps a child learn to enjoy reading.  A $5 gift to Love Packs makes sure a child doesn’t go hungry over the weekend or provides a frozen meal for an elderly resident, who is also getting a safety check, which could be saving their life.

“The thing I love about United Way is it touches every age group and demographic in the community, whether it’s through children receiving a free book or an elderly person receiving a free meal.”

Currently, the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County helps fund programs in 19 organizations. Brummett explained it’s important for the community to know the specific programs being funded and the wide range of residents being helped.

“It’s not the organizations we are funding. It’s a program that is actually helping the community,” said Brummett, who added the organizations are held accountable and have to show how the funds they’ve been given are used and if they believe a difference is being made.

“We think it’s important when people are generous and give of themselves for whatever reason,” he said. “Their gift should be applied exactly how they think it should be.”

Brummett said with a chuckle he hopes to continue working with the United Way in the future and living in Oxford, with his son and with his wife, Kelly, who works at the Health Department in Early Intervention.

He said much has changed over the years, especially in the area of fundraising. “We’re doing things now that maybe 20 years ago we didn’t think about doing,” he said. “However every gift to us is going to be a partnership, whether it’s a designated contribution to a single organization or to us for the 19 different programs we help throughout the community.

“While (the United Way) is a nonprofit, so many things are applicable to a business,” he added. “There may not be sales, per se, but there are donors and it’s the same principle. You have to engage your donors just like you engage customers.

“You have to build that relationship, not just take it for granted,” ended Brummett, who again bragged about his amazing board and the amazing people he partners with within the community.