After another record-setting year, the Callaway County United Way is 65 percent closer to their $265,000 fall campaign goal.
Nearly $170,000 came in to the organization, which disperses funds among 15 agencies that provide services to those in need in the community, including 4-H, the Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence and Kingdom Projects.
CCUW Board President Glenn Harris said the increase from last year's previous record - the first kickoff to crack $100,000, ending at $116,000 - was "absolutely amazing."
"I was speechless all afternoon, which actually says a lot," Harris said. "It was bigger across the board. The employee campaigns of our pace setters seemed to pick up, the auction brought more money, the food cart was busier, the Callaway Cruisers were busier both with more cars and a bigger turnout. We just had more people out there than we had in years past."
Another large source of donations for the kickoff included the annual Penny Drive, in which classes in Callaway County schools compete amongst themselves to raise change for the United Way.
McIntire Elementary in Fulton raised more than $2,000, while Hatton-McCredie Elementary in North Callaway brought about $521 to the table.
McIntire second-grade teacher Casey Craghead organizes the drive for the school every year, and said this is the third year they've had that strong a showing.
Craghead said that about $750 usually comes from the teachers, who get to dress more casually for a month as an incentive for donating $25 to their classroom's fund, but that the rest of the money comes from students donating change over a four-day period.
"You can reach out to the community," Craghead said. "When I took the money to the United Way Friday morning it was at $2,000, and there were still students bringing in money. A kindergartner brought in a whole barrel literally full of coins, and it was so heavy our principal (Beth Houf) had to carry it down."
Harris noted that the students' change was so plentiful that an exact count wasn't reached by Monday afternoon as their change machine broke trying to process the donations.
Harris said that in years past, the United Way had frequently encountered people who did not understand what the organization did or how it helped people, which lead to an increase in advocacy and education in the community over the past year and a half.
"I'd like to say hopefully that is helping and has shown some results but honestly I don't know if I can attribute the success to one thing or the other," he said. "The community came out and wowed us once again; it's amazing, feeling that kind of support."
The United Way still has until into 2014 to raise the remaining $95,000. Other major fundraising events include the annual celebrity waiter banquet in spring, and Harris also teased the return of their Santa breakfast for Christmas.
However, he also vowed they wouldn't get complacent.
"I hate to get overconfident; you never know what's going to happen," Harris said. "Last year we had a record campaign as well as a record kickoff and we hit our goal earlier in the year, and I'd like to think we can do that again.
"But we're not going to sit back and relax and assume that's going to happen. We're going to keep going full-force and hit it as quick as we can."