United Way Kicks Off Community Campaign at Annual Day of Caring

On Thursday, September 18, 650 volunteers headed out around Ottawa County to help with 52 much-needed projects at non-profit organizations during Greater Ottawa County United Way’s 14th annual Day of Caring. Volunteer teams from businesses, organizations and various groups worked throughout the morning and afternoon doing landscaping and yard work, removing invasive species and trash at parks, processing donations, painting, and more. Director of Volunteerism Shannon Morton said, “This incredible volunteer event shows how much the people of Ottawa County care about their communities. It is powerful to see so many volunteers demonstrating how we LIVE UNITED here in Ottawa County.”

At 11:30 am, volunteers gathered at Grand Haven Campground in Grand Haven Township to enjoy a volunteer appreciation lunch, donated by A.D. Bos Vending Services of Holland and Hillshire Brands of Zeeland, and prepared and served by A.D. Bos. Some of the volunteers drew winning tickets, and received prizes donated by Spring Lake Country Club and Shape Corp.

As the volunteers enjoyed their lunch, Greater Ottawa County United Way kicked off its 2014-15 Community Campaign. Campaign Co-Chair Monica Verplank, announced a campaign goal of $2.3 million.

Monica Verplank said, “We believe our challenge this year is to be strategic in reaching all the people in Ottawa County who can participate in the campaign, because we believe that United Way is the best way for us to come together as neighbors and create effective local solutions to local problems. Through United Way, the community asks, ‘Where are the gaps?’ and then collaborates to fill those gaps – whether they are in education, health, financial stability, or basic needs.”

Tony Verplank (Co-chairing the campaign with Monica) added, “When we look at the fact that, for every dollar given to the campaign last year, we realize $3.50 in community benefit this year, we want to meet—and surpass—our goals because it’s the most cost-effective way to invest in our community.”

As an incentive to attract new givers to the campaign, campaign sponsors have underwritten 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.

United Way staff shared that for the past 11 years, the Tri-Cities Lighthouse Leadership Challenge by an anonymous donor has been a powerful beacon for residents of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg. Nearly one million dollars in new and increased leadership gifts has been raised through that challenge, and it’s back for its twelfth year, with a $30,000 challenge grant.

Now, residents of Holland, Zeeland, West Olive, Jamestown, Jenison and Hudsonville can double their new and increased leadership level donations, too. Anonymous donors have committed $30,000 in matching dollars for new and increased leadership gifts from residents of southern Ottawa County as well.

United Way 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 56 effective programs of 42 local nonprofit agencies are changing the lives of tens of thousands of our neighbors because our community supports United Way,” he added. He also noted that United Way has preserved two important community initiatives—Whole Family Connection (www.wholefamilyconnectionottawa.com) and the Lakeshore Housing Alliance. “Both of these programs were at risk of going away, and taking with them millions of dollars in community benefit, but because our community believes in living united, we were able to join them with United Way operations and allow them to operate efficiently, providing essential services to our neighbors.”

United Way associates also said that their work could not be done without the generosity of corporate partners and volunteers alike. The Day of Caring lunch was made possible by donations from Grand Haven Campground, A.D. Bos Vending Services, and Hillshire Brands. Day of Caring and Community Campaign expenses are underwritten by our generous campaign sponsors. This year, Fifth Third Bank has become the campaign’s first-ever Pinnacle Sponsor. Holland Sentinel, Grand Haven Tribune and STAR 105.7 FM are Platinum sponsors; A.D. Bos Vending Services, Inc., Consumers Energy, Johnny Advertising and Huntington Bank are gold sponsors; and DeNooyer Chevrolet, Harbor Industries, Haworth, Itex Trade Exchange/West MI Barter Co., PADNOS, Manpower, United Federal Credit Union, Varnum Law, West Michigan Community Bank and WGHN 92.1 FM are silver sponsors.