In the 2012-13 campaign’s second report gathering Wednesday hosted by Whirlpool Cleveland Division at its new Benton Pike manufacturing facility, United Way volunteers, donors and supporters were told their pledge totals now stand at $1,116,107, or 55 percent of goal.
United Way Board Chairman Cameron Fisher, who praised the leadership of campaign chairpersons Debbie Melton and Richie Hughes, pointed to the impact of an array of Cleveland and Bradley County businesses whose commitment is showing up in their respective fundraising drives.
“We are so excited because so many of these companies are reporting increases in pledges from last year,” Fisher said.
Among some of the more notable increases are Cormetech, 6.6 percent; Eaton Hydraulics, 72.7 percent; Manufacturers Chemicals, 6.3 percent; P&G Duracell, 20.1 percent; Brenda Lawson & Associates, 2.4 percent; Orange Blossom Express, 25 percent; Cleveland Abstract & Title, 150 percent; Target, 21.8 percent; Athens Federal Community Bank, 54.5 percent; Citizens National Bank, 3.2 percent; SouthEast Bank & Trust, 9.2 percent; and Southern Heritage Bank, 18.5 percent.
Others included Water & Waste Equipment, 50 percent; Joe Hooper Insurance, 8.3 percent; and State Farm/Eric Evans, 100 percent. A few companies reporting slight increases over last year are Bank of Cleveland, Easy Auto and Ed Jacobs & Associates.
The momentum-building reports fell on the heels of last month’s campaign report breakfast when Cleveland Utilities, a longstanding United Way supporter, acknowledged a 15.75 percent giving increase, and First National Bank netted a 15.5 percent hike in pledges.
Wednesday’s luncheon provided most United Way team members with their first look at the inside of the massive 1-million-square-foot Whirlpool plant. A second phase will soon add another 400,000 square feet to the site. Construction on a giant distribution center should be completed in December. A third phase will include space for the local operation’s Global Product Organization (GPO, which is the division’s team of engineers and designers).
The United Way report luncheon gave volunteers opportunities to take guided tours of the plant floor before and after the gathering.
A special recognition that came during the midday update was given to the campaigns that became the first to hit 100 percent of goal. The Education Division, chaired by Dr. Walt Mauldin, Paul Ramsey and Johnny Mull, reported pledges of $147,154.81, which is 104 percent of goal.
Mauldin, who chaired the Lee University campaign for United Way, was presented a baseball autographed by legendary Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz who kicked off the United Way campaign a couple of months ago. The retired major league fastballer delivered an inspirational keynote address on why he supports United Way and the value of teamwork and volunteerism in any civic cause.
Mauldin’s leadership at Lee University helped to accrue total United Way pledges of $83,000 for a 3.9 percent increase.
Another attention-getter was the Nonprofit Division which includes a collection of United Way member agencies who also contribute each year to the central source that funds their operations. Among these reports were the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland which increased its pledges over last year by 84.6 percent. Behavioral Research Institute notched an 8.6 percent hike, and the United Way of Bradley County office staff also reported a significant increase over last year of 35.5 percent.
Cleveland businesswoman Nancy Casson, who many have dubbed “Miss Volunteer” because of her variety of community commitments, gave a report on her Special Treats Division which is not included on the campaign teams of either Melton or Hughes. She said the Restaurant Tuesday initiative for United Way continues to bring in donations, as well as the ongoing promotion by Simply Massage. That business is donating $5 for every massage through the month of October.
Casson reported the next Restaurant Tuesday participant will be the Cooke’s Food Store deli with 5 percent of lunch sales being donated to United Way. The Cooke’s deli event will be held Oct. 23.
The luncheon’s host, Whirlpool Cleveland Division — a United Way Pacesetter firm — recently completed its campaign. United Way President and CEO Matt Ryerson elatedly announced Bradley County’s largest employer had blitzed its $160,000 goal by raising $179,000 in pledges.
“Incredible ... incredible!” Ryerson said of the appliance manufacturer. “What an outstanding community partner!”
A highlight of the United Way report luncheon came when several costumed children from Signal Centers — a United Way member agency — were allowed to trick-or-treat among the tables of volunteers. Candy had been left on each table by United Way for the excited youngsters.
Monica Stone, Signal Center director who escorted the children along with many of the parents, gave the United Way volunteers a quick update on the facility’s work. She credited United Way donors, and volunteers, for making it possible.
“We thank you for being part of our success story ... by being part of United Way,” she told the huge crowd.
“The children always enjoy the event, but I think the volunteers enjoy it even more,” Ryerson said.
To celebrate the Halloween theme, the luncheon also featured an appearance by U-Man, a superhero created several years ago to represent United Way of Bradley County. In concert with this year’s LIVE UNITED theme, U-Man — enacted in full Superman uniform by United Way’s own Patrick Long — changed his name for the current campaign to LU-Man.
Ryerson urged volunteers to continue their work and to remember the importance of teamwork.
“When you ‘Live United,’ when you live in a united community, you have a collective impact,” Ryerson said. He called the group “the hands and feet of United Way,” and pointed to the importance of recognizing their work as well as that of a community filled with United Way donors.
In the friendly competition between Melton and Hughes, whose respective campaign teams are battling to raise the highest percentage of their goals, it was pointed out at meeting’s end that Melton’s team had zoomed ahead and now stands at 66 percent of goal. Hughes’ team has reached 47 percent.
United Way’s next report luncheon is set for Nov. 14.
Ryerson urged division leaders and solicitors to complete their campaigns over the next month in order to push for making goal by the next report gathering.
“This is a good push down the home stretch,” the United Way leader said, and added, “Let’s close this out strong.”
Notes About Whirlpool:
Cindy Slater, a longtime Whirlpool employee and avid United Way volunteer and donor, welcomed the luncheon group by giving a few facts about the new plant. The $120 million facility has been in operation for about one year. Construction began in October 2010. At its peak, some 285 construction employees worked on-site daily. To build the plant, Whirlpool contracted with 62 companies in Tennessee and 39 of these are Cleveland and Bradley County businesses.
The plant sits on a 123-acre site. In order to build the facility, 4 acres of wetlands were filled, but were replaced by 15 acres of manmade wetlands. At its narrowest points, the plant’s width spans the length of two football fields and the facility’s length equals five football fields.
The Whirlpool plant is the only LEED-certified (Gold level) facility in Bradley County.
“We are thrilled to be in this facility,” Slater said. “We consider it a blessing.”