Greater Ottawa County United Way wrapped up its annual community campaign at its LIVE UNITED Celebration event on Thursday evening at Trillium Catering and Events Center in Spring Lake. Outstanding campaign companies, nonprofit community partners and volunteers were honored with recognition and awards throughout the evening. During the evening, United Way President Patrick Moran announced that 90% of the multi-year $2.5 million campaign goal was reached, with the total amount given and pledged during the 2015-2016 campaign coming in at $2,235,057. Moran said, “This is an aggressive, multi-year goal. We finished strong, reaching 90% this year, and we are confident that we will reach this goal soon. We are thankful to our generous community for their support of our important work in Ottawa County.”


Moran continued, “More than 200 workplace campaigns took place in Ottawa County this year, with over 7,500 employees giving to United Way. We also received nearly 250 donations from individuals throughout Ottawa County outside of the company campaigns. Now these funds can be invested in the areas of education, financial stability, health and meeting people’s basic needs, the building blocks for a better life for the residents of Ottawa County.”


Campaign Chairs John and Martha Gork also shared their thoughts about this year’s campaign. John said, “Martha and I chose to chair this campaign because we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential in life.” Martha continued, “We want to help people to transform our community through engagement in impact work. And we believe that as a donor and volunteer, you can use United Way to discover your purpose and passion in life.”


The top two campaigns were run by Shape Corporation and Haworth, Inc. 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.


Throughout the campaign, United Way promoted a prize drawing, which offered the chance to win an all-inclusive one-week trip for two to Puerto Vallarta, 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 nearly 2,400 donors who gave $52 for the first time or increased their giving by $52 or more. The winner of the drawing, an employee of Zeeland Community Hospital, was announced during the LIVE UNITED Celebration. Campaign sponsors provided donations for the prize trip.


This campaign season, anonymous donors committed $60,000 in challenge grants to match new and increased leadership gifts ($500+). A $30,000 challenge was made to residents of the Tri-Cities and another $30,000 to those who live in southern/southeastern Ottawa County. A total of 686 leadership gifts were received throughout the campaign, totaling $838,537. In the Tri-Cities (Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg and surrounding townships), $52,596 came from new and increased leadership gifts, and in southern and southeastern Ottawa County, $67,890 came from new and increased gifts, both handily meeting—and exceeding—the challenge.


Greater Ottawa County United Way Board President Dave De Young said, “With the funds raised through our community campaign, we support 58 community partner programs located in Ottawa County, as well as the programs we run under our own roof, including the Lakeshore Housing Alliance, Students LIVE UNITED, and Schools of Hope. The dollars invested by the community into United Way directly support 1 in 4 people in Ottawa County. That is a powerful force for good in our local communities.”


Volunteers in our community were also recognized Thursday evening. United Way’s Director of Volunteerism Shannon LaHaie announced that a total of 8,228 volunteers gave 373,612 hours of their time for a total impact of nearly $8.6 million in the community over the past year. Darcy Komejan, of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Ottawa County was awarded 2016 Volunteer of the Year.


Ottawa County Parks and Recreation received the 2016 Nonprofit Pinnacle of Partnership Award. The recipient of this award exemplifies 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, Director of Community Impact at United Way, honored 23 community investment volunteers with 3-year, 5-year and 10-year services 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. Myssi Griffin of West Michigan Molding received the Joe Martella Above and Beyond Award. This award is given to a company campaign coordinator 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 Herrick District Library.

Nine 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: A.D. Bos Vending Services, the Children’s Advocacy Center, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Fifth Third Bank, Grand Haven Custom Molding, Greater Ottawa County United Way, Macatawa Bank, PADNOS and West Michigan Molding.


The Verplank Family (Brothers Midge and Gary Verplank, Tony and Monica Verplank and Kyle and Samantha Verplank) 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.


During the evening, a special tribute was paid to Lynne Sherwood to honor her life and her many contributions to United Way and our community. The first-ever Lynne Sherwood Lighthouse Leadership Award was announced, and the first recipient was Automatic Spring Products, Corp. 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.


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.