It was mix of old and new when the local United Way of the Coastal Empire officially announced the goal for its annual fundraising campaign Sept. 18.
From last year’s success in attracting large crowds, the all-volunteer, community-building organization decided to again combine its kick-off with the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours, hosted this month by The Heritage Bank.
But the group changed up its routine of unveiling this year’s goal. Instead of using the giant fundraising thermometer, UW board members extended the anticipation by each wearing a number on their back and individually turning around to reveal the six-digit figure.
Kimberly Thomas returned this year as campaign chair and said the community can expect to see more of the United Way, as members get busy collecting donations from area employers and individuals.
“I think what’s so great about (the campaign) is going out and being able to talk to a lot of great people and see the spirit of our community,” Thomas said. “It’s just a great feeling to be a part of a community that cares so much.”
Between the kick-off’s silent auction, progressive pot and free raffle giveaways, Jim Floyd, Heritage Bank president, said he was honored to be able to partner with the United Way for the event.
“We feel like the United Way’s mission of giving back to the charities of Liberty County is something The Heritage Bank can support 100 percent,” Floyd said.
He explained how there has been previous matching dollar campaign for bank employees who donate.
Bobby Ryon, chairman of the local United Way Advisory Board, said this was the 30th anniversary for the UW in Liberty County and has since put $3 million back in to the community where it is needed most.
“Without people like The Heritage Bank and people like you guys we would never be able to reach (our) goals, so I thank you for every dollar you donate, every dollar you commit and every minute of time you commit to volunteering,” Ryon said.
Thomas wants to encourage the entire community, including organizations and individuals, to participate.
“We don’t want to just focus on the big campaigns because every dollar counts,” Thomas said.
Dale Critz, this year’s campaign chairman for the regional United Way of the Coastal Empire, encouraged board members and the crowd to work toward this year’s goal, alluding to recent economic downturns and possibly choosing a better year to volunteer to be chair.
“But really this is the best year because the needs are greater,” he said. “It’ll be a tough road to hoe, but we’ll get there.”
Funds raised in Liberty County stay here to support 14 local agencies and non-profit programs, according to Thomas.
The local group exceeded its $202,699 goal last year and brought in $212,000.
The fundraising campaign typically runs through November.