United Way surpasses 2007 goal, raises $2 million

STATE COLLEGE — It was a nail-biter until the end, but when the last receipts came in this month, the Centre County United Way finally could declare success.

The 2007 fundraising goal of $2 million was surpassed by about $20,000, campaign Chairwoman Linda Gall announced Wednesday before a crowd of 250 partners.

“Tenacious volunteers who just kept trying” were the reason she said she was able to report a positive outcome at the campaign finale celebration at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.

“The economic climate is so uneven, and people are nervous about giving their discretionary income to philanthropy,” Gall said after the event. “But we have a broad base of donors of all levels of income, and we depend on all of them.”

One longtime partner that pulled through was Penn State, which raised $850,733, or about 40 percent of the total, through employee and retiree contributions as well as special events held on campus.

John Dixon, who has organized the Penn State United Way Golf Tournament since 1988, said that event has grown over the years.Dixon said he’s motivated by the stories of how money raised by the United Way has helped the 39 health and human service agencies it supports.

“Suddenly, running a golf tournament isn’t that hard,” he said.

Gall also reported that 37 new companies joined the campaign in 2007.

Greg Wendt, a 10-year volunteer for the United Way, leads the Loaned Executive Program that helped gain those new companies. He was honored on Wednesday with the Leon Kneebone Award for Extraordinary Volunteerism.

“Volunteering for an organization you believe in is not hard,” Wendt said as he accepted the award. “And I’m convinced that Centre County is a better place to live in for all of us because of this United Way.”

Rick Janac, general manager of the State College Spikes, was given the Above and Beyond Award for his work to host several United Way events at the ballpark.

The 2007 fundraising goal, which was about $75,000 less than the previous year, was described as a “smart but challenging” number to meet.

Larry Snavely, who will take over the reins for the 2008 campaign, ended with words of hope for the crowd of volunteers.

“The challenge is indeed before us and the need rises,” he said. “Economic conditions are not favorable, but we’re gonna get her done.”