More than 300 turned out early Friday morning to kickoff the 2010 United Way of Blount County campaign at the Airport Hilton. With a nod toward better days ahead, the campaign cabinet announced a goal of $1.9 million, which is essentially “flat” over last year’s goal.
The energy level was high -- from the introduction of the “funny video,” where Campaign Chair Greg Wilson learns a little about teamwork from University of Tennessee Head Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl, to the rousing sounds of “Rocky Top” played by the Heritage High School Marching Band. Wilson, United Way staff, volunteers and campaign chairs rallied behind the announcement of the goal. When reports were in from Pacesetters, the United Way Golf Tournaments and other pre-kickoff events, the campaign starts with $537,792 already raised, which is 28.3 percent of goal.
“We’re right on target to where we need to be,” said United Way of Blount County CEO Michelle Hankes. “Twenty-five to 30 percent of goal is ideal, and we’re at 28 percent.”
Wilson said he was honored to have been asked to chair the campaign and shared how United Way makes an impact in the community. “With United Way, we save lives, changes lives for the best and help people in need,” he said. “About 50,000 people in Blount County are touched by United Way every year.”
Using a “Sports Talk” format for the featured speaker and campaign reports, guest speaker Bob Kessling, the play-by-play “Voice of the Vols” announcer for the football and men’s basketball teams at the University of Tennessee, shared his thoughts on how United Way agencies and programs help others.
“I’m a strong supporter of teams. The older I get, the more I learn how important they are,” he said. “United Way is a team.”
Kessling compared a “good team” to people who motivate and support a person. “There are lots of people in our community who are not on good teams. Our job as a community is to make sure we get as many people as possible on a good team,” he said.
Brenda Sellers, who chairs the board of directors for United Way of Blount County, opened the ceremony with a video introducing Wilson’s campaign cabinet.
The humorous video featured UT Men’s Head Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl “whipping the team into shape” on the basketball court in order to prepare Wilson’s cabinet for the campaign. Wilson played a bumbling basketball player, with Pearl telling the cabinet how they will have to come together to help their leader. At one point, Pearl says, “See this basketball? It says Wilson. The closest thing he has to ‘game’ is his name is on the ball.”
By the end of the video, Wilson hits a full-court shot and the campaign committee leaves inspired to raise needed funds to meet this year’s goal.
With lights dimmed and a spotlight shining through the crowd, cabinet members were introduced with their basketball names, rushed through the crowd, throwing United Way T-shirts and giving high fives as Kessling announced them to the audience.
Lea Anne Law, who chairs the Pacesetter division of the campaign, announced that 21 companies had held Pacesetter campaigns and raised $258,177 for United Way.
Pacesetters are companies that hold United Way campaigns the month before the campaign officially begins and “set the pace” for the United Way campaign.
Mike Zorio and Joe Andrews, co-chairs of the 17th annual United Way Golf Tournament that happened Aug. 2, announced their totals and thanked sponsors. “It has been an honor for Mike and me to chair the 17th annual United Way Golf Tournament,” Andrews said.
Zorio thanked tournament sponsors. “We really couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “We’re pleased to announce the golf tournament raised $25,490.”
Tom Hatcher, chair of the seventh annual United Way Public Service Hamburger Luncheon, told the audience that the event will be at 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at First Baptist Church of Maryville. “Last year we raised over $10,000 and all this is done by our local public service personnel,” he said. “These people put their lives on the line everyday so come out and put your lives on the line for United Way.”
Tara Rasher and Jim Ford, co-chairs of the United Way of Blount County third annual Motorcycle Ride, said the event is set for Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Shed at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. “We know it is going to be a success. Blount County Sheriff’s Office and the Dixie Iron Riders will escort us. We know it is gong to be a fun time,” Rasher said.
The two-hour ride through Blount County will conclude with a concert by Pistol Creek Catch of the Day at the Courtyard restaurant in Alcoa. Riders can sign up to ride and those who don’t ride can join the festivities at Courtyard for the music and a barbecue dinner for $10.
Jim Woroniecki and Larry Graves, co-chairs of the annual United Way Gas Day, encouraged folks NOT to fill up their cars before the Oct. 22 event involving convenience stores throughout Blount County. “On Oct. 21, if you look at your gas gauge and see it is on empty, don’t go fill up,” Woroniecki said.
“That’s right, and don’t be shocked if some stranger offers to pump your gas and wash your windows. They’re doing it for tips for United Way,” Graves said. “So eat your barbecue and hamburgers in September, but on Oct. 22, you need gas.”
Regina Jennings, who chairs United Way’s Year of Caring committee, announced results for the organization’s second annual “Can-paign Before the Campaign,” a food drive and competition sponsored by BB&T.
The “Can”paign brought in 10,480 pounds of food for local food pantries that serve Blount County.
Twenty-three companies participated this year, and results are based on a per capita rate based on the number of employees.
LeConte Wealth Management won in the small business category with four employees bringing in 177 pounds of food for a per capita rate of over 44 pounds of food per employee.
First Tennessee Bank won in the medium-sized business category with 80 employees bringing in 4.2 pounds of food per employee, bringing in a total of 333 pounds of food.
Marriott Business Services won in the large business category and donated 2,400 pounds of food with 609 employees, giving them a per capita rate of 4 pounds.
The “serious” video featured three United Way success stories, including the story of B.J. and Maranda Telfer, who were at the breakfast with their children. The Telfers paid off almost $12,000 in debt using principles learned in Budget Basics, a program funded by United Way of Blount County. Both the “funny” and the “serious” videos are available at liveunitedblount.org.
United Way of Blount County supports programs that address health, education, and self-sufficiency.
For more information or to give to United Way, visit liveunitedblount.org or call 865-982-2251.