On Tuesday evening, Greater Ottawa County United Way wrapped up its annual community campaign at the LIVE UNITED Celebration event at Spring Lake Country Club. Top-performing campaign companies, nonprofit community partners and volunteers were honored with awards and recognition throughout the evening. During the event, Campaign Chairs Mark and Lori Wilson announced that the community campaign grew by 1%, with the total amount given and pledged during the 2017-2018 campaign coming in at $2,301,538.


United Way President Patrick Moran said, “More than 200 companies ran workplace campaigns in Ottawa County this year, with more than 7,000 employees giving to United Way. We are proud of the impact we can make in Ottawa County with this kind of support. We will continue to invest our community’s dollars in the building blocks of a better life for all: education, financial stability, health and meeting people’s basic needs.”


Campaign Chairs Mark and Lori Wilson discussed the campaign results as well. Lori said, “West Michigan is known for it’s generosity, and Ottawa County is no exception. We are grateful for our community’s support, and proud to be part of an organization that invests wisely to meet our community’s needs.” Mark added, “United Way funds more than 50 nonprofit programs in Ottawa County as well as their internal programs such as the Lakeshore Housing Alliance, Students LIVE UNITED, My Free Taxes and FamilyWize Prescription Assistance. They also collaborate with businesses, nonprofit organizations and local government to address our community’s most pressing challenges. For every dollar raised, United Way produces $3.70 in community benefit. As a banker, I consider that a great investment.”


The top two campaigns were run by Haworth, Inc. and Shape Corp. Together they raised nearly half a million dollars for the campaign. Shape and Haworth continue to challenge each other for the number one campaign, and this challenge leads to a greater benefit for everyone in Ottawa County. Employee participation at both companies has increased, with more than 50% of employees contributing. This has led to an increase in campaign dollars as well.


Throughout the campaign, United Way promoted a prize drawing, which offered the chance to win an all-inclusive four-night trip for two to Cancun, Mexico. Donors who gave $52 for the first time, or donors who increased their giving by $52 were included in the drawing. United Way staff concluded that the drawing was a success, with more than 2,200 donors who gave $52 for the first time or increased their giving by $52 or more. The winner of the drawing, an employee of Bissell, Inc., was announced during the LIVE UNITED Celebration. Campaign sponsors provided donations for the prize trip.


This campaign featured, for the second year, the Ottawa County Leadership Challenge, a pool of $80,000 from 12 donors, which challenged us to increase leadership giving by matching new gifts of $500 or more from anyone living or working in Ottawa County. It also matched any increase from previous leadership givers.  The challenge was met and exceeded, with $191,167 in match-eligible gifts. The 2018 Lighthouse Leadership Circle consists of 692 community members who donated a total of $946,991. Of those, 165 were first-time leadership givers and 174 increased their leadership donation. The average leadership gift was $1,368.


Volunteers in our community were also recognized Thursday evening. United Way’s Director of Volunteerism Shannon LaHaie announced that a total of 8,689 volunteers gave 161,388 hours of their time for a total impact of more than $3.8 million the community over the past year. Randy Kortering, of Haworth, Inc. was awarded 2018 Volunteer of the Year.


The Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area both received the 2018 Nonprofit Pinnacle of Partnership Award. The recipients of this award exemplify a commitment to improve the quality of life for Ottawa County residents through leadership in service and education as well as a year round partnership with Greater Ottawa County United Way. Liz DeLaLuz, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way, honored 10 community investment volunteers with 3-year and 5-year service awards. These members of the community serve on community investment panels that thoroughly review programs that receive United Way funding to ensure that all programs funded by United Way are efficient and effective.


United Way also applauded individuals and teams for their creativity and effort in running workplace campaigns. Heather Middleton from Woodward received the Joe Martella Above and Beyond Award. This award is given to a company campaign coordinator or committee who consistently goes above and beyond in managing the workplace campaign. United Way’s Out of the Box Award for the most innovative company campaign was presented to Shape Corp.

Six Ottawa County companies and organizations received United Way’s Community Builder Awards, indicating that they met five key criteria for giving, advocating and volunteering within the community and on behalf of United Way. The award recipients include: Anderson Technologies, Brilliance Audio, Inc., Children’s Advocacy Center, Falcon Corporation, Grand Haven BLP & UWUA 582, Grand Haven Custom Molding, Greater Ottawa County United Way, LightCorp and Macatawa Bank.


Bari Johnson was presented with the G.W. Haworth Strength of the Community Award. This “lifetime achievement award” recognizes an organization, family, couple, or individual that exemplifies United Way’s leadership spirit of volunteering, philanthropy and community decision-making. A dedicated community servant, Bari has provided leadership to many local, regional, and national organizations. Whether developing the next generation of leadership talent in West Michigan, helping women to succeed and celebrating them for their accomplishments or mixing cement by hand in Honduras to provide clean water and sanitation to the people who live there, Johnson has strived to create a world where each person could achieve his or her potential.


The Lynne Sherwood Lighthouse Leadership Award recipient is Grand Haven Custom Molding. This award is given to a United Way campaign company that demonstrates the greatest increase in leadership giving, or to an individual, couple or family whose community leadership sets an example for others to follow. GHCM is a relative newcomer, founded by Grand Haven resident Karl Chapel in 2010.  In only its fourth year as a campaign company, more than 80 percent of GHCM’s employees pledged to the campaign, with 20 percent of those giving at the leadership level. Overall, they increased their leadership giving by 54 percent.


The Greater Ottawa County United Way Board of Directors and staff would like to thank our generous supporters and volunteers for their investment in our community. Because of your support, we are able to continue to bring together people and organizations with the passion, expertise and resources to get things done in Ottawa County. Because of you, we continue to make an impact in the areas of education, financial stability, health and meeting people’s basic needs in our local communities. THANK YOU for your commitment to LIVE UNITED. To learn more about our work, visit www.OttawaUnitedWay.org or call (616) 396-7811.