United Way unveils new awareness campaign

Friday, May 2, 2008

Nancy Jernigan stood in front of more than 150 people Thursday and began unbuttoning her blouse.

A dozen or more others stood next to their chairs and followed suit, each revealing identical T-shirts proclaiming, "Live United."

"No matter who we are, we are still people," United Way of Southeast Missouri board member Karen Kraus told the crowd.

The PG-style undressing was a creative way to reveal United Way of Southeast Missouri's next awareness campaign, according to Jernigan, the agency's executive director.

"It takes all of us to make so much happen" is United Way's recurring theme, Jernigan said.

Kraus said this year's campaign will focus on "giving, advocating and volunteering."

The announcement was just one element of the annual luncheon meeting, held at the River Campus.

Don Fisher, the United Way board president, said 2007 was "a transformative year" for the agency, for the expansion in programs and services as well as volunteer Lee Schlitt's record-breaking fundraising campaign. Schlitt's committee recorded $1,262,223 in donations, 8 percent more than the agency collected in 2006.

Board member Jeff Cunningham announced the annual Spirit Awards, created to recognize an individual, a company and an agency that have not only shown their support of the United Way and its mission but exemplify the spirit of sharing of themselves with their neighbors and community.

Former board member Kevin Govero received the Spirit of Giving Award.

AmerenUE received the Spirit of Community Award. Seeing the Family Resource Center get the Spirit of Caring Award was the best part of the luncheon, according to Louise Duncan, 77. She attends the Family Resource Center's weekly potluck lunches and health education programs.

"The Family Resource Center gives us a chance to be together with people our own age," she said.

Everyone attending the lunch meeting received a Live United shirt and an annual report.

In the last year, United Way has expanded the LIFE Initiative, which now serves 172 children from 62 families in Cape Girardeau and Jackson; launched Success by 6 "Born Learning" to improve early care and education; expanded First Call for Help's by linking to 211, the statewide help line; and activated the Community Organizations Active in Disaster to help people affected by recent disasters. The latest project is the Financial Stability Partnership, aimed at helping people earn more and save more money.

The death earlier this week of board member Marybeth Williams was also acknowledged.

"It's difficult to think about our future when we're mourning such a loss," Jernigan said.

Schlitt said that while he was gratified working on the fundraising campaign, he's now spending time developing a leadership program for people in their 20s and 30s.

For details, visit www.UnitedWayofSEMO.org or call 334-9634.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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