Led by Campaign Chairman Gary McAllister, the new campaign team gathered to officially kick off this year’s $1.7 million fall fundraising drive Thursday at Rotary Park.
ETSU Men’s Basketball Coach Steve Forbes was the keynote speaker for the kickoff and helped referee a competitive new charitable element to be continued at each of the campaign team’s monthly report meetings.
Former Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe and WJHL Sports Director Kenny Hawkins, two fierce but friendly rivals in the United Way’s annual Celebrity Bagging events at area Food City stores, showed the team how it will be done, squaring off in a one-on-one race to bag school supplies for two Washington County and Johnson City classrooms.
And the campaign team followed up, racing to pack pencil boxes for 120 students in need. When the last bag was filled, United Way President and CEO Kristan Ginnings said at total of $700 in school supplies donated by the United Way board had been packed for delivery to the two school systems.
Absent from Thursday’s kickoff were the running contribution totals and campaign division reports that have historically been at the center of the United Way meetings. Rather than the monetary goal, Ginnings said the campaign team this year will focus on “raising as much as we possibly can.”
And for the first time in 13 years, Ginnings said, the United Way will be adding new programs to the 17 nonprofit health and human services that benefit from the annual campaign.
The theme of this year’s campaign is “Changing Lives & Making in a Difference in Our Community.” McAllister, who chose the theme, said he thought he knew what the United Way was when he agreed to chair the campaign, but repeatedly asked just to be sure.
In response to his inquiries, McAllisters said, Ginnings provided him with a video in which the directors and staff of each of United Way’s partner agencies and the United Way staff and board members explain what it is they fight for: To keep seniors safe in their homes, to make today’s girls tomorrow’s women, to help the area’s homeless, hungry and veterans, to help young people reach their full potential, to connect people with resources they need, to make sure Johnson City school children have socks and shoes, to help homeless families have sustainable independence and to improve the health, education and financial stability of everyone in Washington County.
McAllister said the United Way agencies together touched the lives of 137,000 people last year, and the hope is that it will be able to do that again this year.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.