“Often times, when we have this event, it’s very much like preaching to the choir,” Centre County United Way Executive Director Tammy Gentzel said.
She looked out over the crowd at the kickoff for the 2014 fundraising campaign Monday at the Mountain View Country Club. The tables were filled with representatives from the agencies that reach out helping hands across the county and the businesses that collect the money to make it happen.
This year’s goal was set at $2,125,000, a modest $25,000 increase over the 2013 objective.
“We want to be very cognizant of what the community can get around,” said Gentzel. “But we wouldn’t mind shooting way, way past that.”
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The pacesetter companies, the 31 area businesses that started off the campaign quietly over the summer with giving campaigns among their employees, set a high bar for the rest of the county, collecting $510,838, about 25 percent of the overall goal, before the real fundraising even started.
The goal for pacesetters was a 5 percent increase over 2013. Eight companies posted increases, but none as spectacularly as real estate agency Kissinger, Bigatel and Brower, which boosted its giving by 55 percent. The YMCA of Centre County, a member agency that uses United Way funds to provide programs from Philipsburg to State College to Bellefonte, runs a campaign among its own employees, too, and increased its contributions by 18 percent.
“It is often the case that the choir’s voice is what gets the audience’s attention,” said campaign co-chairwoman Colleen Williams, encouraging others to spread the word not only about the United Way’s needs to meet that goal, but more importantly, about the member agencies’ programs and their importance in the community.
“Ask for a contribution to help a person,” said Tom McKee, of The Hartman Group, described by YMCA of Centre County CEO Howard Long as “passionate” about the United Way and its mission.
“The United Way is a vehicle to give funds to the agencies that do the real work out there,” McKee said.
Among the member agencies in Centre County are groups like the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, Centre County Library, Housing Transitions, Mid State Literacy Council and the new kid on the block, Centre Volunteers in Medicine. CVIM will receive United Way funding for the first time to help provide dental care to county residents in need.
“Our vision is that everyone in Centre County has access to quality health and dental care,” said Sue Forster, CVIM marketing coordinator.
To ensure that all the agencies continue to make a difference in the community, there is still another $1.6 million to raise, with the final numbers set to be announced in February.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said campaign co-chairman George Downsbrough.
Gentzel encourages people to donate but she is also happy to hear from people who might not be able to afford to make a cash donation.
“If you don’t have money to give, you can volunteer,” she said.