There’s a trick firefighters use when climbing the extension ladders on a ladder truck.
Look down and watch your feet as you go.
Michelle Hankes, president and CEO of the United Way of Blount County, learned that on Wednesday, Sept. 21, during the Public Service Hamburger Luncheon at the First Baptist Church of Maryville.
Hankes climbed almost to the top of the ladder truck the fire fighters brought to the Hamburger Luncheon. She wore a helmet, and said that trial climb made her even more appreciative of the work the fire fighters do.
“Can you imagine climbing that ladder, wearing 100 pounds of gear, when there’s smoke and screaming people? And you do the job. Thank you.”
About 700 turned out for the annual luncheon that is a part of the United Way of Blount County campaign. Tom Hatcher, circuit court clerk and chair of the Public Service Hamburger Luncheon Committee, said the volunteers raised almost $10,000. With the $5,500 they raised when they took the Public Service Luncheon to Denso in August, the total for the Hamburger Luncheon this year should be approximately $15,500, he said.
“That is up $3,000 from 2010,” he said. “It was little bit lighter turnout than what we expected on Wednesday. We plan for 1,200 every year, and we had between 600 to 800 this year. It started out raining and that probably hurt us some, and of course the economy is not where it was in years past, which I’m sure had a little bit to do with it.”
Hatcher said all-in-all, it was a success. “We made money for United Way. We did more than last year, even with the lighter turnout, because we had good bids on silent auction items and that helped out quite a bit,” he said.
Hatcher thanked those who volunteered to make the event happen. “We had great turnout with volunteers from all the public service division. You can’t say enough about our volunteers. These are people who get out and give back to the community everyday in their jobs as firefighters, police officers and in Public Works, yet those folks are willing to give up their time and help raise money for United Way,” he said. “It makes you proud to be in public service.”
Holly Burkett, assistant dean at Pellissippi State Community College at the Blount County campus, was on hand taking bids for items during a silent auction as a United Way volunteer and board member. “I’ve come to the hamburger luncheon the past few years. It brings our whole community together,” she said.
Charlie Stephens with Twin Cities Dealerships said the company has supported United Way for years. “We decided to support one charity years ago. We do payroll deduction when we hire people in,” he said. “We believe in all the things United Way supports.”
Hoy Grimm with LeConte Wealth Management praised United Way. “It’s a hallmark of our community that this Hamburger Luncheon has grown to what it is today. It is great to see so many come out to support United Way,” he said.
Mike Zorio with Mountain National Bank said he enjoys the community spirit that is evident at the Hamburger Luncheon. “This event brings out all of Blount County to support United Way. Folks could be somewhere else, but they choose to be here and that shows the community support for United Way,” he said. “This is our fifth time coming as a bank.”
Jessica Wallace was on hand with her three children – Katie, 3, and Emery and Eric, 5 months – to enjoy the Public Service Hamburger Luncheon. “I want my kids to know United Way is important and that it is important to give back to the community,” she said.
Dr. Anthony Wise, new president of Pellissippi State Community College, was on hand at the luncheon with Blount County Commission Chair Jerome Moon. “Pellissippi State is a community college, and it is important to be a part of the communities we serve,” Wise said. “The Blount County campus is the community college for Blount County.”
Anne Klebenow, project leader/staff communications and public relations at Denso, said United Way is vital to families in Blount County. “What would this community do without United Way considering over 50,000 people receive services of some kind from a United Way agency,” she said.