Greater Ottawa County United Way Kicks Off Annual Campaign with Day of Caring

      A veritable army of local citizens marched throughout Ottawa County on Thursday, September 15, reporting for duty at 60 volunteer project sites as part of Greater Ottawa County United Way’s 11th annual county-wide Day of Caring. They arrived by 8:00 a.m.-- to hammer, saw, paint, clean, dig, shovel, rake and renew—in teams from 80 companies, schools, families, and organizations.  They cleaned up county parks, stocked shelves in food pantries, did yard work and maintenance at homes and human service agencies, and scoured Ottawa County’s beaches.
    When all the work was done, 780 volunteers had worked for 4,680 hours, providing $94,208.40  in labor support to the community in just one day. Shannon Morton, United Way Director of Volunteerism, noted that the volunteers didn’t just wear LIVE UNITED shirts, they lived them.  “People from area companies, governmental units, and nonprofit agencies came out to help. Students and teachers helped.  Families volunteered. These volunteers helped individuals who can’t do their own home and yard maintenance, and they worked in our towns, parks, and on our school grounds to better our communities. It’s a true example of how we in Ottawa County LIVE UNITED,” she said.
    
At noon nearly 500 of the volunteers gathered at NASCAR RV Park (formerlyYogi Bear Camp & Resort) in Grand Haven Township to enjoy a volunteer appreciation lunch, which was donated by A.D. Bos Vending Services of Holland and Sara Lee Foods of Zeeland, and prepared and served by associates from A.D. Bos. With that captive audience under the pavilion, Greater Ottawa County United Way kicked off  its 2011-12 Community Campaign, “The Building Blocks of a Better Life.”
    
Campaign Chair Scott Remenschneider, Vice-President at Huntington Bank, announced a campaign goal of $2.3 million.  Noting the goal is more than 20 percent higher than last year’s goal, Remenschneider said, “Last year’s campaign goal of $1.9 million was exceeded by nearly 8 percent, and major firms giving increased more than 10 percent over the previous year.  We believe some of that growth can be attributed to the fact that more people went back at work in Ottawa County. Many are counting on the campaign to continue this upward trend, because many of our community partner programs are now facing some of the toughest budget cuts they have ever experienced, and many of our neighbors continue to struggle,” he said.
    
“Moving Michigan forward requires some difficult legislative funding cuts. It should be no surprise that many of United Way’s community partners are facing reductions in funding to critical programs in the impact areas of Health, Education, and Financial Stability. These are programs that have demonstrated results.  We have an opportunity and an obligation to our proven community partners as we all work toward a brighter future in Michigan. I have always been humbled and impressed by the generosity of spirit and togetherness that has historically been the hallmark of this County. I am asking all of us to push that generosity of spirit further now so that, through Greater Ottawa County United Way’s community investment process, we can leverage that generosity and continue the progress we’ve been making. We must own these problems as private citizens and make sure that our neighbors have food, shelter, basic utilities and that neighborhood values are preserved. We must work toward school readiness so that when our kids enter Kindergarten they are ready to learn, ready to achieve and to reach their full potential. These are just a few of the vital goals we’re working on with our community partners at United Way.”
     Remenschneider is optimistic that the campaign can continue to grow. “We have a strong and growing base of support among our campaign companies in Ottawa County,” he said.
    
A number of local companies have set the pace for this year’s campaign by running their campaigns early and acting as a barometer for what to expect this year. Those companies include Shape Corporation, Mercantile Bank of Michigan, Delong & Brower, PC, Saturn Electronics in Coopersville, and Grand Haven Area Public Schools.
    
“With a record number of volunteers for Day of Caring and the early pacesetter results we’re seeing, the campaign is off to a great start,” said Remenschneider. “We look forward to the momentum continuing throughout the next few months and for the excitement of helping one another to spread throughout the county.”
    
United Way’s President Patrick Moran said that, while the dollars raised are important, an even greater emphasis belongs on the differences those dollars make in the lives of people.  “Education, Financial Stability, Health, and Basic Needs are the building blocks of a better life,” he said, describing United Way’s areas of focus. “Right now 59 effective programs of 41 local nonprofit agencies are changing the lives of tens of thousands of our neighbors because our community supports United Way,” he added.
    
United Way’s Day of Caring lunch was made possible by donations from NASCAR RV Park, A.D. Bos Vending Services, and Sara Lee Corporation. Day of Caring and Community Campaign expenses are underwritten by Platinum Sponsors Fifth Third Bank, Huntington Bank, The Holland Sentinel and Grand Haven Tribune; Gold Sponsors A.D. Bos Vending Services, Inc. and Harbor Industries, Inc.; and Silver Sponsors Haworth, Inc.,  Louis Padnos Iron & Metal, Inc.; Manpower, Inc.; Michigan Commerce Bank, Michigan Custom Signs, WGHN 92.1 FM; and Varnum Law.
    
United Way officials also said that their work could not be done without the generosity of corporate partners and volunteers alike. A campaign cabinet consisting of 44 local executives is helping with the work of the campaign, including 16 volunteer account managers who, along with United Way staff, help area companies to conduct workplace campaigns. Volunteers who are helping to lead the campaign, in addition to Remenschneider as Campaign Chair, are Franco and Alessandra Bianchi and Tim and Jill Parker, Lighthouse Leadership Circle Co-Chairs; Mark Wilson of Huntington Bank and Mike Metzger of JSJ Corp., Major Firms Co-Chairs; Pete Esser, Holland Sentinel; Larry Koops, Fifth Third Bank, and David DeYoung, JSJ Corp., Major Firms associates; Small Business Chairs Brett Burza, Raymond James, and Taiyoh Afrik, Johnson Controls, Inc.; Professional Division Chair Jeffrey Beswick, Varnum Law, and co-chair Dolores Trese, Legal Aid of Western Michigan; Patrick McGinnis, Grand Haven City Manager, Government Division Chair; Keith Konarska of Grand Haven Area Public Schools and Ron Veldman of Coopersville Public Schools, Education Division Co-Chairs and Education Associates Karen McPhee, Superintendent of the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and Dr. Dorothy VanderJagt, Hudsonville Public Schools; Charisse Mitchell of Center for Women In Transition and Sarah Lewakowski, Tri-Cities Ministries Counseling, Nonprofit Division Co-Chairs;  and Sandy Huber and Steve Groters, co-chairs for the Retiree Division.  Additionally, the “Beyond the Workplace” Division is co-chaired by United Way Board Members Eric Kaelin of WGHN and Paul Thurman of ITW Drawform. United Way Board Members Jack Russell, Shape Corp.; Robert Spaman, County of Ottawa; Sandra Graan, Haworth, Inc.; and Les Denton, West Michigan Labor Council, are also assisting with campaign activities.

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