The United Way of Blount County set its sights on a $1.94 million goal Friday morning at the 2011 Campaign Breakfast Kickoff at the Airport Hilton.
There was already some good news to celebrate as 2011 campaign chair Lea Anne Law announced that 30.5 percent - or $592,770 - has already been raised through Pacesetters and a couple of pre-campaign events.
The campaign kickoff took on comical “L.A. Law” theme as members of the packed banquet room were asked to serve as jurors. State Court of Criminal Appeals Judge D. Kelly Thomas was brought in and Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher “swore” the members of the audience as jurors.
Playing on the theme of the old “L.A. Law” television series, Campaign chair Lee Anne Law played the defense attorney while Michelle Hankes, CEO and president of the United Way of Blount County, acted as prosecutor, introducing each member of the 2011 campaign cabinet by showing booking photos of each one in stripes and bringing charges against them for everything from “contributing to the obesity rate” (holding a fundraising hamburger luncheon) to “blackmail” (soliciting campaign donations).
The campaign chairs had dangerous sounding alias - such as Katherine “Baby Face” Caputo, Tom “The Griller” Hatcher. Each campaign cabinet member took a turn at the podium to give their report in the form of defending themselves against the charges brought against them. In the end, Judge Thomas dismissed all “charges,” and Law introduced the 2011 campaign video, a moving look at the services provided by United Way set to the words and music of the Sugarland song “Stand Up.” The video can be seen on the new United Way website at www.liveunitedblount.org.
Law thanked everyone for coming to the breakfast. “This is not about Lea Anne Law; this about all of us in Blount County. You may be a recipient of services from a United Way agency or you may know someone who is,” she said. “One in three people in Blount County receive some kind of assistance from a United Way agency.”
Law quoted Franklin Roosevelt in saying that the true test of a people is what they do for the least of those in society. “That’s what we’re doing today,” she said of setting a campaign goal, “working to raise $1.94 million to help right here in Blount County.”
Following the breakfast, Hankes shared how the idea for the courtroom drama theme was born. “Every year we have to think of something different to keep the energy and excitement up,” she said of what has become known as “the funny video.”
“The video tries to be a reflection of the campaign chair - it is their show.”
Hankes said the inspiration for the courtroom drama theme for the kickoff breakfast skit was Law’s email. “Her email address is “L.A. Law. That was a sign,” Hankes said with a laugh.
Law said the campaign has gained momentum even before the official kickoff because of the enthusiasm of the campaign cabinet members. “This whole campaign has taken on a life of its own,” she said. “It gave us an opportunity to tell all the facts and figures of the campaign while having fun at the same time,” she said.
Hankes said the idea for the “Stand up” theme came about when she heard the Sugarland song on a CD she bought. “I about wrecked cars listening to it,” she said of her reaction to the song. “I said, ‘That’s what United Way is about - standing up for the community.’”
Hankes said she spoke with Bill Evans at WATE-TV, and the team created the video to match the theme. “He and Lea Anne made it come to life,” she said.
Hankes said she learned a lot about the music industry. She had to work with the music label to get permission for the local band Steel Kickin’ to sing the song “Stand Up” on the video.
Law said the dynamic energy of the campaign cabinet is evident in the innovative and creative ideas they come up with to keep the campaign energized. “I thought I was going to have to get after folks to be creative, but I’m not having to do that,” she said. “It’s magical, it’s happening.”
She referenced new initiatives such as the United Way Champions Go Big or Go Home Tailgate before the Maryville/Alcoa game, the United Way Days at the Maple Lane Farm Corn Maze or the Dixie Iron Rider auction. This new activity invites folks to bid on rides with Dixie Iron Rider members during the United Way of Blount County Back Roads Motorcycle Ride. To bid on a ride, call the United Way of Blount County office at 865-982-2251 or go to www.liveunitedblount.org.
Law said she hopes that as the campaign rolls on through the projected Nov. 22 victory lunch that the community will focus on the good that United Way does for everyone. “We need to stay focused on the needs of folks in our community,” she said. “The success of United Way agencies directly affects the quality of life for all of us.”
Law thanked her campaign cabinet for all their time and energy they’ve given so far. “It is remarkable,” she said. “The people on this cabinet all have such great responsibilities already with families and work duties, but they realize they’re making a difference. That’s the humanity of it all. It is just taking care of each other. That’s why we all offer our time, treasure and talent.”
In addition to the next months of working with area businesses, industries and governments to run workplace campaigns, on the agenda for United Way are:
What Matters on Your Platter at Hot Rods -- 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
What Matters on Your Platter at Courtyard Grille -- 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at the restaurant
What Matters on Your Platter at McAlisters -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the restaurant
Public Service Hamburger Luncheon -- 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at First Baptist Church of Maryville; $6 for lunch plus optional $2 for additional burger or a fried Twinkie
United Way Corn Maze Days -- 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 24, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. $1 of ticket price donated to United Way at Maple Lane Farm Corn Maze.
Back Roads Motorcycle Ride and BBQ -- 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, beginning at the Smoky Mountains Harley Davidson The Shed and ending at Couryard Grille
What Matters on Your Platter at Gracies -- 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the restaurant
United Way Gas Day -- 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at KenJo, On The Run, E-Z Stop, Marathon and IGA stations in Blount
What Matters on Your Platter at Aubrey’s Maryville -- 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the restaurant.