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United Way kicks off $1.8 million drive

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Aug 19, 2017 at 12:36 AM

The United Way of Washington County launched its $1.8 million fall fundraising campaign Friday with a pep rally luncheon at Rotary Park.

The kickoff included the announcement of more than $309,000 in contributions already pledged toward the $1.8 million goal by employees of more than a dozen area companies and organizations that conduct their United Way fundraising early to set the campaign off at a healthy pace.

Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe introduced the campaign’s team leaders, Campaign Chair Mike Estes and Vice Chairs Michael Elbers, Shaunda Fales and Amanda Hudson. And with help from Johnson City Mayor David Tomita, Wolfe led the team in an drive-opening cheer to energize their fundraising.

Tomita set the crowd off on the long round of enthusiastic chanting with a couple of underlying questions that played on the campaign’s theme.

“When should we all fight for the the health, education and financial achievement of the citizens of Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County? And when should we all advocate, volunteer and give to the United Way?” Tomita asked.

In an echoing response to Tomita’s questions and to each line of a series of short rhyming stanzas from Wolfe that the Jonesborough mayor said made him “feel like Dr. Seuss” and made the campaign team “look like 1.8 million bucks,” the team members emphatically repeated their 2017 fundraising theme, “The time is now.”

Estes told the team members the hate and division displayed nationally in recent days had made the International United Way organization’s long standing “Live United” motto even more relevant.

“Over the past several days and the past year really, we have seen how much hate divides us. The United Way is something that unites us in love for our community,” he said.

Estes noted that Jimmy Haslam, father of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, in his a recent visit to Johnson City had commented that “You can gauge the health of a community by how well its supports the United Way.”

And he asked the team members to share stories of the life-impacting work done by the 17 nonprofit agencies the United Way campaign supports, to “get people on the bus” and to “allow your enthusiasm to bleed over on the community.”

“You are the who, the what and the how of our success,” Estes said.

The kickoff also included United Way President and CEO Jerome Julian and artist Freddie Lee Young’s unveiling of the 2017 United Way campaign print, a painting of Jonesborough’s Mill Springs Park to go to all campaign leadership givers making contributions of $500 or more.

Firehouse Restaurant provided a barbecue lunch for the kickoff, which was also made possible by the contributions of about a dozen corporate and individual event sponsors.

More information about the campaign and the nonprofit service agencies it supports may be obtained by calling the United Way of Washington County at 423-282-5682.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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