United Way kicks off 2009 campaign

Bradenton Herald – With a cloudy economic climate leaving more area residents in dire straits than ever before, the United Way of Manatee County wants to come to the rescue.

But it can’t meet the needs without you.

The organization set its 2009-2010 campaign goal at $2.6 million on Tuesday during its event kick-off at the Renaissance on 9th. The money will benefit 43 local agencies, including the Community Coalition, Hope Family Services Inc. and Meals on Wheels Plus, which rely on grants and charities to make ends meet.

This year’s theme is “Live United.”

While organizations and businesses contribute annually to United Way, nearly 70 percent of funds come from individual donors, said John Annis, campaign chair.

Despite economic conditions, United Way board and staff members are optimistic of reaching this year’s goal. But Annis told Tuesday’s crowd he would like to raise $3 million. Last year, the organization met its minimum goal of $2.6 million, but had hoped to raise $2.8 million.

Meeting the minimum is “not going to be enough,” he told the audience at the kick-off luncheon.

During the event, heads of several local agencies stressed the need for help by highlighting area statistics like these:

Children account for 17 percent of those living in poverty, said Carl Weeks, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club. And one in nine seniors are at risk of growing hungry, said Kristen Theisen for Meals on Wheels.

In 66 years, United Way has raised more than $60 million to help the needy of Manatee County.

“The greatest accomplishment lies in the impact that this amount of money has meant to our community,” said Brian Parrish, board chair of the United Way.

To continue its tradition, the organization already has several fundraisers planned, including a Rock Climbing for Dollars event. Plus, Jerry Koontz, president of United Way, plans to shed a few pounds for the cause. The more weight he loses, the more money he can raise. Annis gave him a goal of 20 pounds.

“We’re going to do everything we can to bring the money in,” said Koontz.

posted Sept. 16, 2009

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