The United Way of Racine County kicked off its 2008 fund drive today, hoping to raise $5.4 million, its largest goal ever. The United Way has 700 "leadership givers" (who donate at least $1,000 annually), more than 12,000 donors, and 2,000 volunteers. Last year's campaign -- its most successful -- raised $5, 125,000.
"We're advancing the common good," said executive director Dave Maurer, "and we are getting results. We all benefit when a child learns to read, or when a felon gets a job."
The United Way's three priorities are Education, Income and Health.
Maurer pointed out that the organization has changed in recent years -- "there are no more entitlements, outcomes are measured" -- and the United Way is focused on giving, advocating and volunteering, "the keys to Living United," the organization's present mantra.
Maurer introduced Catherine Powell, senior counsel at Modine Manufacturing, this year's campaign chair, who -- along with her campaign cabinet -- has been making calls on businesses helping them organize effective employee fund drives.
He pointed out that Jeff Collen, director of the Racine County YMCA, has issued a challenge to other non-profits: Any non-profit or United Way partner-provider that increases its own donation more than Y employees increase their overall donation will win a free swimming party for employees. "Up to 1,000 employees," Maurer said... finally adding, "well, he really didn't say that part."
Jeff Neubauer, CEO of Kranz, Inc., detailed part of the strategic plan initiative undertaken by loal business leaders under the aegis of the Workforce Development Center, which has three major goals: finding replacements for all the baby boomers who will shortly be retiring; helping those portions of the city with chronic high unemployment; and creating workers for the "jobs of the future."
Neubauer pointed to one of United Way's recent success stories -- the creation of HALO, a permanent shelter that both houses the homeless while at the same time providing training to get them into jobs and their own housing. "This community did a fabulous job with HALO," he said. "We can use that model -- a good business plan to tackle tough issues -- and if there is one indispensable partner in creating a collaborative joint venture, it's the United Way."
He and Maurer pledged "to bring some of our most vulnerable families to financial stability."
United Way Board President Greg Anderegg noted that Tuesday's kickoff lunch "was filled with leaders laying the framework for solutions." He expects to achieve -- "and exceed" -- this year's goal.
The first major campaign event will take place on Sept. 5, at Downtown Racine's final First Friday, when shops are open late and musicians perform throughout downtown. Some 45 retailers will be holding raffles in their stores to kick off "Live United - Downtown."