Almost 400 volunteers, supporters and contributors honored a community cause they share by “Celebrating United” at the nonprofit organization’s Annual Dinner held in the Professional Development Center at Life Care Centers of America.
The Tuesday night festivities brought closure to a campaign whose fundraising now stands at $2,002,000 — still slightly short of goal, but with two company drives still in the making officials say the lofty target remains in sight.
The celebration also launched the start of United Way of Bradley County’s 75th anniversary, a milestone that will prove pivotal in this fall’s coming fundraiser.
“The United Way work is only done through your support,” outgoing United Way Chairman of the Board Cameron Fisher told the vast audience. “It has been a pleasure to work with the volunteers, staff, agencies and donors to make this a successful year.”
And successful it was, as declared by Chuck Krecklow, incoming board chairman who praised Fisher’s leadership, his dedication to the Cleveland and Bradley County community and his ongoing allegiance to United Way and its 27 community service partners.
Citing Fisher’s vision for helping those who need help the most, Krecklow pointed to the team effort required of any successful United Way campaign.
“While I am excited about my role in this organization, the truth is it is always a united, team effort,” he stressed.
In keeping with this theme, Krecklow introduced the newest, incoming members of the United Way board. They include Delita Cobb, Julie Newell, Bruce Bradford, Bill Estes, Ron England, Ken Webb, Tim Spires and Matt Tolbert.
“This is a landmark year for United Way of Bradley County as we celebrate 75 years of service to our local community,” Krecklow said. “During this time, our United Way has invested more than $75 million into services that support our community’s most vulnerable.”
The “75” will appear and reappear throughout the coming year and during the campaign, he noted.
“We intend to recommit the work of this organization toward serving our community for another 75 years,” he said. “While we are firmly entrenched in the traditions of United Way, I believe you will also see ‘new’ traditions develop in this 75th year of service.”
Specifically, the incoming board leader pointed to four key impact areas on which United Way will focus: “Health,” “Education,” “Financial Stability” and “Serving our Community’s Most Vulnerable.”
“We will have ‘new’ opportunities to volunteer with the rollout of a volunteer platform that will allow companies and organizations to create customized volunteer experiences in our community,” Krecklow explained.
He listed a few new projects whose success will rely on the development of collaborative partnerships “... that focus on addressing our community’s most pressing issues.”
A few of these include:
n “Ready By 21,” a program assisting area youth to become better prepared for school, work and life by the age of 21;
n “Neighborhood Revitalization,” a unique community collaboration with a goal of supporting some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods;
n “Success By 6,” an initiative giving children ages 0-6 the tools they need to be ready for school; and
n Creating a “Dental Clinic,” a volunteer-driven project focused on serving the 55 percent of Cleveland and Bradley County residents who do not have dental insurance.
But the two-hour celebration wasn’t all about looking ahead. Most of it was a chance to look back.
Mickey Torbett, city president of United Community Bank and a longtime United Way volunteer, was named recipient of United Way’s highest individual honor, the William F. Johnson Sr. Community Service Award.
Lee McChesney, executive director of Cleveland Family YMCA, was named recipient of the second annual Jim Tucker Award, a presentation intended for professionals in community service, whether or not their nonprofits are members of the United Way network.
See related stories in this edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner for additional information about the Torbett and McChesney presentations.
focuses Top 10
Matt Ryerson, president and CEO of United Way, opened the evening with a reflection on what he sees as some of the organization’s top achievements in the past year. Some include the CapitalMark Nonprofit Resource Library; the restoration work of the Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization; the Project Roundup initiative by Cleveland Utilities which is on track to raise $200,000 for families in need; hosting volunteers at the first Raise Your Hand Tennessee event to honor those helping to inspire children and families to read together; the distribution and promotion of Prescription Drug Discount Cards with FamilyWize and Coast2Coast which have produced total savings in the community of $1.966 million; and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which has delivered 192,076 books to area children.
Others include a Consumer Credit Counseling service in the United Way office; the growth of the Community Action Network to create a more cohesive web of support within the nonprofit community; and a Care Mobile project anchored by Ronald McDonald House, Erlanger Medical Center and SkyRidge Medical Center which has provided basic health care to 922 children this school year, some 66 percent of whom were enrolled in TennCare or had no insurance.
“Ultimately, with these initiatives and dozens of other services supported by you and your United Way, we have directly impacted 12,327 people in our community,” Ryerson cited.
Award given to 3
For the second year, United Way of Bradley County presented Community Spirit Awards to a handful of area companies, businesses and organizations that have gone above and beyond any expectations of United Way.
The award exceeds campaign fundraising and employee participation. It is also about supporting United Way through word and deed, and through mindset and mannerisms.
Recipients of the 2013 award included Jones Management/Check Into Cash, Cleveland Utilities and Lee University.
In last year’s inaugural presentations, Community Spirit Awards went to Life Care Centers of America, P&G Duracell, Cormetech, Southern Heritage, Whirlpool Cleveland Division and the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Ryerson told crowd members they are representative of the companies receiving Community Spirit Awards.
“I believe you are here tonight because you are the type of person, that when you go home and you lay your head down on your pillow ... you feel it is unacceptable to know that others in our community somewhere are sleeping on the street tonight,” Ryerson stressed. “I believe you are here tonight because as you enjoy this amazing dinner provided to us, you also find it unacceptable that kids in our community arrive at school every Monday hungry because they haven’t been fed all weekend.”
He added, “I believe that you are like me, and that you love this community too much to sit idly by as our friends, our family and our neighbors suffer through life’s greatest challenges. You are here because you believe you can make a difference. I am here to let you know that you are right.”
Dr. Rubi Bryant, a longtime United Way supporter who has worked tirelessly in the fund distribution arena, pointed out 70 volunteers served on budget panels. They held 47 meetings and served 337 man-hours in the process.
This year’s Fund Distribution Panel chairs included Ron England, Reba Barkley, Debra Crass, David Altopp, Lucia Cook, Mara Grisham, Mark Gravelle, Brenda Choat and Gayle Ellis.
The Fund Distribution Council, whose members supported the panel chairs, included Tim Spires, Lisa Mantooth, Coleman Foss and Nancy Neal.
Also, Dr. Charles Hurley, who has held the volunteer post of Fund Distribution chair for the past five years, was honored as well.
“The Fund Distribution Panels are the key to the good stewardship that United Way has become known for,” Porter said. “The individuals who volunteer for these panels make up the foundation on which our organization is built.”
“Big Chief” goes
to Debbie Melton
Debbie Melton, who shared campaign co-chairman roles with Richie Hughes, was named recipient of the “Big Chief” award which is the lighthearted honor given to the campaign chair whose team finishes the campaign with the highest percentage of goal.
“I received so much more than what I gave,” Melton said in referring to the personal reward she savored through the United Way experience.
Her division chairs included Margaret Schenck, Pat Fuller, Tammy Bentley, Matt Jenne, Dr. Jerome Hammond, Tanya Mazzolini and Dan and Janey Cooke.
She also recognized the 13 members of the advanced-giving Tocqueville Society members whose United Way contributions totaled $366,000.
Hughes, who accepted Melton’s victory humbly yet with a few final lighthearted punches, credited his team for its hard work. He also pointed to the total good made possible by the entire United Way team.
“We are never more like Christ than when we are kind and serving others,” Hughes told the audience. “No program has done for this community what United Way has done.”
Division chairs on Hughes’ team included Terry Henry, Taylor Howard, Mike Thomasson, Kim Spence and Donna Simpson (Government), Andy Williams, Don and Lila Lorton (Special Gifts), and Paul Ramsey, Johnny Mull and Dr. Walt Mauldin (Education).
given to leaders
Stephen Crass and Chuck Krecklow were honored for their work as co-chairs of the Blue Ribbon Committee which visits companies to discuss their campaigns and to forge new partnerships between United Way and area businesses and organizations.
Blue Ribbon visits help to promote United Way awareness and streamline communication between organizations and the nonprofit agency.
Mickey and Teresa Torbett, veteran United Way volunteers and contributors, were honored for their co-chairmanship of the Pillars Club, an advanced level of giving divided into several categories. Pillars Club gifts range from $1,000 to $9,999. This year, the Pillars Club had 228 members who contributed a total of $353,316.
Nancy Casson, a Cleveland businesswoman better known as “Ms. Volunteer,” was honored for her leadership in the Special Treats Division which brings in contributions to United Way through special business partnerships and discount deals or services.
New partnerships with Cleveland Utilities and CapitalMark were recognized as examples of new sources of revenue to United Way driven by Casson’s energy and dedication to United Way, and to the community.
The terms of several individuals serving on the United Way board are ending. They, too, were recognized.
The group includes Bill Barkley, Mike Baker, Steve Bivens, Ralph Buckner Jr., Gene Harrell, Pat Ensley, David Fair, Avery Johnson, Brenda Lawson, Terry Leonard, John Kimball, Stephanie McClendon, DeWayne Morrow, Mayor Tom and Sandra Rowland, Mike Thomasson, Tom Wheeler, Buck and Charlotte Thorogood, Joe Vaughn and Jim Williams.
for year’s work
In appreciation for his past year’s work as chairman of the United Way board, Fisher was awarded a plaque of appreciation by Krecklow, as well as a limited edition (one) bobblehead doll with his likeness.
Accepting the tiny figure, Fisher joked that it didn’t resemble him, but Krecklow said it was close enough.
To close the evening, Krecklow introduced his coming campaign team co-chairs by calling them “two community legends.” They are Don Lorton, a retired Whirlpool and Maytag executive, and Dr. Rodney Fitzgerald, a retired educator. Both are staunch United Way volunteers and contributors.
In his last official action as United Way board chairman, Fisher handed over the gavel to Krecklow. In his first official action as board chairman, Krecklow adjourned the evening of “Celebrate United,” pending the startup of this fall’s fundraising campaign.