Honoring workers

Goals reached, now United Way pays tribute to volunteers and supporters

Photo with no caption
By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

Mike Lewis, outgoing United Way campaign chairman for 2006-07, said that once the board, volunteers and donors decided they wanted to raise $2 million to support Blount County programs, he wasn’t surprised they reached their goal.

What did surprise him was their timing.

"I had no doubt we would reach it," Lewis said of the goal. "What I wasn’t ready for was we came in three days early."
Lewis addressed and thanked the crowd at the United Way Awards luncheon at the Airport Hilton Friday afternoon, Jan. 19.

United Way volunteers and contributors raised $2,054,829 this year. "It’s been a great year. It’s taken a lot of really great people and a lot of effort, and we’re here to honor these people," he said. "Everyone in this room had a part of this campaign."

In most years, staffers and volunteers spent the entire week leading up to the final Friday of the campaign soliciting donations, Lewis said. On the Tuesday of the final week of the campaign, volunteers and staff were making calls for a final push to reach the $2 million goal, an amount no one had ever raised in a previous campaign. "By 9:45 the next morning, it was all in," Lewis said. "That was a nice surprise for all of us."

During the luncheon Lewis thanked each member of his campaign cabinet for their work in making the campaign successful.
Campaign chairs were: Dave Bennett, Pacesetter Campaign; Denny and Cindy Mays, Pillar’s Society; Kevin Clayton, Alexis de Tocqueville Society; Tony Thompson, Major Firms; Kevin Painter, Commercial Division; Scott Justice, Industry and Building Trades; David Connor, General Business; Joe Ingram, Professional Division; Brenda Pilson, Residential and Special Gifts; Boyce Smith, New Business Division; Larry Graves, Gas Day; Dr. Bill Seymour, Golf Tournament; Tom Hatcher, Public Service Hamburger Luncheon; Tammi Ford, Day of Caring.

Lewis praised the loaned executives from participating companies who paid visits to offices and plants in Blount County soliciting donations and commitments. "They did so many things," he said. "It’s the largest group of loaned executives we’ve ever had. We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without this group of people."

Lewis said after the luncheon that for several months prior to the campaign kicking off in late summer of 2006, he spent each Friday visiting the Blount County agencies that have programs funded by United Way. He wanted to see the agencies, learn how they spent United Way dollars and understand what made each agency click, Lewis said.

What he learned was, "They all do so much with so little," he said.

During the luncheon, Lewis praised the staff at United Way. Lewis thanked United Way staff, volunteers and contributors for their efforts. "It doesn’t happen by itself," he said of the campaign’s success. "Without your contributions, we would not have success. I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of this."

The 2006-07 chairman of the United Way Board, Rick Shepard, introduced the 2007-08 United Way Board chairperson, Joy Bishop. Bishop took a light-hearted dig at Shepard.

"In school, we learn real leaders surround themselves with people smarter than they are, and he’s certainly done that," she said as the crowd laughed.

Bishop said she has loved being a United Way volunteer for years. "I’ll be working with a board of directors that’s second to none," she said.

Bishop said she has three goals for United Way: Creating more community engagement in assessing the priority needs of Blount County, empowering more individuals to become more self-sufficient, and working on impact strategies between the Untied Way and partner agencies to be sure that all contributions are going to the greatest need and getting the best

"We’re careful of other people’s money," she said.

Shepard talked about the integrity of how decisions are made in which programs get United Way money. While there are 26 United Way supported agencies in Blount County, the agencies aren’t just given money. United Way funds specific programs operated by the agencies, he said.

Shepard said there are five areas of community impact chosen by the people of Blount County and each agency in some way is addressing at least one or more of those five areas. "The community told us what areas we need to fund, and we’re funding programs within those agencies that address those needs," he said.

According to Jennifer Wackerhagen, vice president of resource development with United Way of Blount County, the five areas are: helping kids succeed, strengthening and supporting families, promoting self-sufficiency, improving people’s health and protecting community well-being.

Shepard said a big part of what United Way does is help foster self sufficiency.

United Way dollars go toward helping solve the root cause of issues rather than just treating symptoms of issues, he said.
Shepard added that reaching the $2 million goal was the most gratifying moment of his time as chairman of the United Way board. "That goal - to see the volunteers, board and staff and their reaction when we reached the goal -- it was truly a humbling experience," he said.

Shepard said that he had always heard that leaders find out which way a group is going and jumped in front of it. "I found out which way they were going and jumped out of their way," he said, referring to the momentum and enthusiasm the volunteers had in reaching the $2 million plateau.

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