Live United

United Way kicks off campaign with $2.25 million goal and a new slogan

There was singing, there was dancing and Denny and Cindy Mayes hope there is plenty of giving.

The Alcoa couple and longtime United Way volunteers and supporters, are co-chairs for United Way Campaign, the annual fund drive for UW. A parody of the movie “Grease” helps start the campaign with laughter.

Denny and Cindy Mayes were introduced Thursday, Aug. 28, during the United Way of Blount County’s annual kickoff breakfast at the Airport Hilton. The couple announced the annual goal for the campaign is $2.25 million.

Friends, supporters, community leaders and citizens were introduced to the new campaign and campaign goal at a breakfast at the Airport Hilton. A video helped explain what United Way does in the community and the ways to get involved. A second “funny” video cast the Campaign Cabinet as cast members in the movie “Grease.”

The video opens with Denny Mayes clad in a leather jacket, jet-black pompadour hairpiece like John Travolta. Cindy was wearing a 1950s era poodle dress ala Olivia Newton-John. The spoof was written by United Way marketing coordinator Aaron Killian, produced by Charter Media and provided plenty of laughs.

As the movie ended, the Grease emblem - an outline of a classic convertible, showed the word “Give.”

Give is part of the message Denny and Cindy were imparting when they announced this year’s goal. “This is a 5 percent increase over the goal last year and 2.2 percent over what actually raised,” Cindy Mayes said.

The co-chairs said the Campaign cabinet put a lot of thought into setting the goal. “Our goal is set to be a challenge, but also obtainable. More importantly, it is what is needed to meet the needs of the community,” she said.

Denny Mayes said they considered how the slow economy has affected businesses in Blount County. “We thought, how could we make this goal when the economy is not at its best,” he said. “But the, how could we not? We made conservative estimates, and we looked at the needs of the community.”

“When times are tough, the needs become greater,” Cindy Mayes said.

During the serious video, Cindy Mayes said each person’s life touches someone else and that the campaign was about more than just money being raised. “It’s not just about money, it’s about all the things that make a difference,” she said.

Denny and Cindy Mayes said the Pacesetter campaign, an initiative by companies to complete their employee pledge campaigns in July and August before kickoff, as well as the annual golf tournament and the leadership giving, raised $617,048, which is 27.4 percent of the overall goal.

Cindy Mayes said the efforts to raise money now help people in need. “You never know when it’s going to be one of us who needs help,” she said.

Leadership giving was also explained, with Cindy Mayes explaining that leadership giving is one way people can help United Way achieve their goal. “Leadership giving means households or individuals give $1,000 or more. It’s only $19.23 per week to be a Leadership Giver. We are asking boldly, can you give $19.23 a week?”

Denny Mayes said the annual United Way Golf tournament was in its 15th year and was a success. Mark Johnson and Greg McClain, city managers of Alcoa and Maryville, respectively, co-chaired the committee that planned the event.

Johnson said there were 192 golfers at the tournament, which cleared $26,026. “Bottom line, we had an increase this year over last year of 13 percent,” McClain said.

McClain said the event is becoming very well known to golfers. “We had to turn a lot of people away, which we hated to do,” he said.

During the video presentation, United Way supporters shared how they “Live United,” which is the new theme for United Way. Sharon Hannum, chair of the Alcoa City Schools Foundation, said she Lives United by being an advocate.

“I believe it’s not who you know, but it’s who knows what you know. The more you can share information, then that’s mentoring.

“Once we know there’s a need, there’s no limit to the number of volunteers willing to help with that need,” she said.

Jim Sanford of Blackberry Farm was seen on video spending time with his “Little Brother” Andy Graham as they fished. Sanford and Andy participate in the Big Brother/Little Brother program, which is a United Way agency.

Sanford said he enjoyed being a Big Brother through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. “People ask you to donate and I’m as charitable as the next guy, but I prefer doing stuff where I can see a direct result,” he said.

In addition to the reports from the Pacesetter campaign, several upcoming events were highlighted. The Public Service Hamburger Luncheon will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 17 at First Baptist Maryville. The Backroads Motorcycle Ride will take place at 1 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson and the annual Gas Day will happen on Oct. 3 at Kenjo, Calloway and Downey oil company stations.

Michelle Hankes, CEO and president of United Way of Blount County since January, was participating in her first campaign kickoff since joining the team. Hankes then announced that apart from the campaign, United Way of Blount County would be spearheading an effort to identify a specific goal for improving the community. Hankes said there would be focus group meetings throughout the fall in addition to the campaign events to help hammer out what that goal would be.

The goal could be anything from making sure everyone graduates high school, to ensuring people have access to quality health care. “It all comes down to self-sufficiency, to say, ‘I took care of my family.’ Every single person in Blount County should be able to do that,” she said. “A person can make a difference.”

The United Way campaign continues through Nov. 21

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