United Way Surpasses $2.3 Million Goal

Greater Ottawa County United Way officially wrapped up its annual community campaign at its LIVE UNITED Celebration dinner on Thursday evening at Doubletree Hotel in Holland. Outstanding campaign companies, nonprofit community partners and volunteers were honored with recognition and awards throughout the evening. At the end of the night, campaign results were announced, revealing that the $2.3 million fundraising goal was exceeded for the first time in the organization’s history. The total amount given and pledged during the 2014-2015 campaign was $2,314,676.


Campaign Co-chairs Tony and Monica Verplank were thrilled with the results. Tony said, “We are proud to be a part of such an incredible effort by the members of our community to truly make a difference here in Ottawa County. Approximately 300 workplace campaigns took place in Ottawa County this year, with over 9,000 employees giving to United Way. We also received nearly 250 donations from individuals throughout Ottawa County outside of the company campaigns.”


Monica continued, “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. We are blown away by the generosity of our local communities, and we are proud to be a part of United Way’s LIVE UNITED movement.”


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 Mexico, an iPad mini, or a 12-month gym membership to an Anytime Fitness location. 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 2,300 donors who gave $52 for the first time or increased their giving by $52 or more. The prizes were provided by donations from campaign sponsors.


This campaign season, anonymous donors committed $30,000, respectively, in matching dollars for new and increased leadership gifts ($500+) from residents of the Tri-Cities and of southern Ottawa County. This year, leadership giving was up 10%, with $940,155 total raised through leadership gifts, including $127,512 in new and increased leadership giving.


Greater Ottawa County United Way President Patrick Moran said, “With the funds raised through our community campaign, we support the increasing financial needs of the 56 community partner programs funded by United Way, as well as the programs we run under our own roof, including the Lakeshore Housing Alliance, Whole Family Connection, 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 celebrated Thursday evening, with United Way Director of Volunteerism Shannon Morton announcing that the goal of 8,000 volunteers was surpassed, with a total of 8018 volunteers sharing their time and talents with those in need. John Gork, of Northwestern Mutual was awarded 2015 Volunteer of the Year. He began volunteering as a United Way Account Manager in 2010, and has championed five community campaigns each year since then. He serves as a role model and mentor in this position, and serves many other organizations in his community.


Bethany Christian Services, a United Way community partner agency, received the 2015 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, honored nine community investment volunteers with 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. Peg Buehler, Senior Administrative Assistant at Shape Corp. 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 Woodward, Inc.

Eight 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: Automatic Spring Products, Children’s Advocacy Center, Fifth Third Bank, Grand Haven BLP & UWUA 582, Greater Ottawa County United Way, JSJ Corporation, Macatawa Bank and Shape Corp.


Larry and Jeanie Koops were presented with the prestigious 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. Larry and Jeanie have both served and continue to serve many organizations in the community. Larry has been a trusted and engaged leader for Greater Ottawa County United Way for many years, where he has served as the 2009-10 campaign chair, lighthouse leadership circle co-chair with Jeanie for the 2010-11 campaign, and as a member of the board of directors since 2011. He is currently board chair. Larry said, “We are truly honored and humbled in receiving this award. We hope to send the message that a group of generous and thoughtful people working together can make a positive difference in the lives of many.”