On Thursday, September 15, Greater Ottawa County United Way hosted its 16th annual Day of Caring in Ottawa County. 660 volunteers worked together in teams to help local nonprofit organizations with 50 projects. Some of the projects included: removing invasive species and trash from parks, yard work and landscaping, painting, sorting and cleaning, filing documents and more. Director of Volunteerism Shannon LaHaie said, “I look forward to this day each year. It is inspiring to see so many people willing to spend their day helping those organizations who dedicate themselves to helping others all year round. This day is a huge benefit to our nonprofit organizations, and it’s a lot of fun for our volunteers.”


At 11:30 am, volunteers gathered at the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds to enjoy a volunteer appreciation lunch, donated by A.D. Bos Vending Services of Holland and Tyson Foods of Zeeland, and prepared and served by A.D. Bos. During lunch, Greater Ottawa County United Way kicked off its 2016-17 Community Campaign. Campaign Chairs P.J. and Kristen Thompson announced a campaign goal of $2.5 million. P.J. Thompson said, “Kristen and I are looking forward to being a part of United Way’s campaign this year. United Way creates opportunities for people and organizations in Ottawa County to work together to help everyone in our community reach their full potential. By investing in programs and initiatives that change lives, everyone can make a difference.”


Campaign Chair Kristen Thompson added, “P.J. and I are so encouraged by our community’s generosity. We invite the members of our community to join us in our support of United Way. You can give, advocate or volunteer to make a positive difference right in your own back yard. When you invest in United Way, you are changing lives and changing communities.”


As an incentive to attract new givers to the campaign, campaign sponsors are once again offering a “Two Tickets to Paradise” campaign drawing. Anyone who pledges $1 per week for the first time or increases their pledge by $1 a week will be entered into a drawing to win a trip for two to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. Details can be found at www.ottawaunitedway.org/prize-drawing.


Leadership givers, those who donate $500 or more in any campaign year, are a powerful force for positive change in our community. Last year they donated more than 60 percent of the dollars donated by individuals. This group’s generosity has grown every year in large part thanks to a unique challenge offered by an anonymous donor. For 13 years, the Tri-Cities Lighthouse Leadership Challenge granted up to $30,000 to the campaign when citizens of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg became leadership donors, or increased their leadership gift. Every year we met—and exceeded—the challenge. Over the 13 years, nearly $1.2 million in new and increased leadership gifts was raised in those communities. For the past two years, donors in southern Ottawa County offered  a $30,000 challenge, as well, which grew leadership giving in those communities by 30 percent the first year it was offered.


Earlier this year the donor who created and sustained that annual challenge died suddenly and unexpectedly. An endowment--the Lynne Sherwood Fund for Greater Ottawa County United Way at Grand Haven Area Community Foundation—insures that her annual gift to the campaign will continue in perpetuity. But it is no longer a challenge match. So we have been busy all summer meeting with our supporters to create a new, county-wide challenge match.


A group of (so far) seven generous donors from throughout Ottawa County has offered multi-year commitments totaling $26,500 per year to the new Ottawa County Leadership Challenge, which will match dollar for dollar all new leadership gifts from anyone who participates in the community campaign up to that total. Donors who gave at the leadership level last year can also leverage their gift by increasing it – and the amount of the increase will be matched. Learn more about leadership giving at: www.ottawaunitedway.org/lighthouse-leadership-circle.


The United Way Board of Directors and staff would like to thank the generous corporate partners and volunteers who make the annual Day of Caring possible. The Day of Caring lunch was provided by donations from Christian Reformed Conference Grounds, A.D. Bos Vending Services, and Tyson Foods of Zeeland. Day of Caring and Community Campaign expenses are underwritten by our generous campaign sponsors. Pinnacle sponsors are Fifth Third Bank and WHTC/The Van radio. Platinum sponsors are: Consumers Energy, The Grand Haven Tribune, The Holland Sentinel and WGHN radio. Gold sponsors are: A.D. Bos Vending Services, Inc., DeNooyer Chevrolet, Fox 17, Haworth, Huntington Bank, Itex/West Michigan Barter, JQ99/The Pledge radio, and West Michigan Community Bank. Silver sponsors are: Barber Ford, Johnny Advertising, Manpower, PADNOS, and Varnum Law.