April 2, 2008

United Way honors Dan Risch, looks forward

Dan Risch, center, receives President's Award
from Greg Anderegg, right, and Dave Maurer, left.

Coming off its most successful fund-raising year ever, the United Way of Racine County held its annual meeting Wednesday, thanking retiring directors, electing new ones and looking toward the future.

Although last fall's record-setting $5.125 million campaign, directed by campaign chair Bruce Duerr of Great Northern Corporation, was a pleasant touchstone, the meeting wasn't about money -- it was about "Live United," the United Way's focus on long-term solutions. As Dave Maurer, executive director put it, the "evolution from fund-raising and entitlement to community-building and community impact" that has been going on here for a number of years.

United Way Board President Greg Anderegg of SC Johnson presented the annual President's Award to Dan Risch of Lincoln Lutheran, "for his effective board stewardship, and for constantly challenging us to think outside the box."

United Way members elected four new board members: Denise Wilcox, Twin Disc; Jeff Van Koningsveld, IBEW Local 430; Pastor Pedro Lopez, Primera Iglesia Luterana and Hispanic Roundtable; and Jeff McKeown, Express Personnel.

Re-elected to the board for a second term were: Chris Terry, Carpetland; Therese Rocole, Wheaton Franciscan, All Saints; Jill Hartmann, Neighborhood Housing Services; Dave Titus, M&I Bank; Tom Berger, SEIU; and Robert O'Brien, Extendicare.

Maurer, a United Way executive for 25 years, noted the "disconnect between the public's understanding of what we do" and how the organization, which began in 1887, is evolving. People ask him, "What do you do the rest of the year?" assuming United Way is mostly a fund-raising organization. Words they use to describe it include "charity," "safety net," "handout," an organization "for them."

Instead, Maurer emphasized, the vision of United Way is as a change agent, working for the common good. Words he prefers are "interdependence," "all of us together," "not just them."

The United Way, he said, is all about lasting change and prevention. "We're advancing the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all, through education, income and health." The prime example is the creation of HALO three years ago; the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization is far more than a homeless shelter.

"Our goal is to create long-lasting changes by addressing the underlying causes of problems," Maurer said.

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