In a change from previous report events, United Way volunteers met for breakfast instead of the traditional lunchtime gathering.
“We had a great turnout, and I think everyone enjoyed the change,” said United Way of Bradley County President and CEO Matt Ryerson.
Those in attendance were addressed by campaign co-chairs Debbie Ledford Melton and Richie Hughes, who both pointed out that while early campaign pledge totals are encouraging, much work remains to raise funds needed by United Way partners’ programs.
Cameron Fisher, United Way board chairman, highlighted many of those early totals, beginning with Cleveland Utilities. The local company was the first to complete its campaign and turn in those pledge totals to United Way.
“Cleveland Utilities had a goal of $42,000, but raised $46,287.76,” Fisher related. “This is a 15.75 percent increase over last year. Thank you Cleveland Utilities for getting us started with such a great report.”
Fisher also highlighted five area banks which showed pledge increases: Athens Federal Community Bank, with a 54.5 percent increase from last year; Bank of Cleveland, which increased its pledges to total $16,376; First National Bank, which increased pledges by 15.5 percent; and Southeast Bank and Trust, with a 7.7 percent increase. Southern Heritage Bank reported pledges of $22,000.
“Our banks always do a great job, and we still have a few out there working their campaigns, so we know that we will see great reports from them as well,” he said.
Both local school systems completed their campaigns with pledge increases. Cleveland City Schools reported $28,399.40 in pledges, for a 6.8 percent increase from last year, and Bradley County Schools raised $34,190 in contributions, for a 7.6 percent increase.
“Lee University has had another incredible campaign too, as the school raised $83,151.41, for a 3.8 percent increase from last year,” Fisher said. “That is a new Lee University record for giving to United Way.”
A few other companies were recognized for their early campaigns, including Brenda Lawson and Associates, which has seen a 2.4 percent increase from last year’s pledges.
Cormetech reported $13,082.63 in pledges, for a 6.6 percent increase in contributions from 2011.
Life Care Centers of America is currently conducting its campaign, and was able to report $150,000 in early pledges.
“And P&G/Duracell Brand, which happens to be the United Way Worldwide ‘Spirit of America’ Award winner, had an amazing campaign with $102,533.38 in pledges, for a 6.6 percent increase over last year,” Fisher said. “That is with the campaign at only 86 percent.”
One of United Way’s partner agencies — Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland — conducted its own early campaign. “While they are our largest recipient of United Way funds, they are also committed to giving back,” Fisher noted. “This year, they saw an 84.6 percent increase over last year’s pledges to United Way. Thank you, and thank you for what you do for our community.”
In the head-to-head, but light-hearted, competition between the two campaign co-chairs, Hughes’ team currently holds a strong lead over Melton’s group by 16 percent of their respective team goals.
“Strong, but not insurmountable,” Melton said. “I am confident that my team will come in with some great numbers at the next report luncheon, and we will see where we are then.”
“I am pleased to be leading the competition, but it’s early,” Hughes said. “However, your team has to have the lead to be able to hold the lead, which is what we plan on doing.”
Both said they have determined teams of division chairs and solicitors for the 2012 campaign, and feel confident that whichever wins the competition for the “Big Chief Award,” it will be those who are in need of the services that United Way partners provide who will be the winners.
“This is a long campaign, and although we are off to a great start, we need your continued support,” he told volunteers. “The work being done by the United Way and its agencies cannot be accomplished without you and your assistance. Please continue to give, advocate and volunteer and remember to ‘Live United.’”
Along with the campaign reports, longtime United Way volunteer Taylor Howard was honored for his work with the organization. He was presented with an Atlanta Braves baseball cap signed by former Brave John Smoltz.
“Taylor said when I first saw him this morning that he thought John Smoltz was the best keynote speaker we have ever had,” said Ryerson, “so we are glad to be able to present this hat to Taylor for all his years of dedication to United Way and to our community.”
United Way volunteer Nancy Casson was also able to report that the Ace Hardware Labor Day promotion raised a record total in money for United Way. Ace Hardware Rewards Card members had 5 percent of their purchases donated back to United Way over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
She reminded everyone that Simply Massage on Inman Street is still donating $5 from each massage or gift certificate purchased back to United Way, and that Restaurant Tuesday for United Way will begin on Thursday, Sept. 20, at CiCi’s Pizza, where 10 percent of purchases will be donated back to United Way.
Restaurant Tuesday for United Way will continue on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the Cobblestone Grille on Broad Street, located across from the Bradley County Courthouse.
The Southern Heritage Bank “Cleveland Helping Cleveland” food drive to benefit United Way of Bradley County partners has been scheduled for the week of Nov. 5.
“These are just some of the many ways for you to help United Way help others,” Ryerson stressed. “Please support these companies that are making a difference in our community, and tell them you appreciate their work with United Way.”
The next campaign report event will be a luncheon held on Oct. 17 at the Whirlpool Cleveland plant on Benton Pike. More information on that event will be announced as the date nears.