More than 90 business leaders from Jefferson City and surrounding areas gathered at the Hawthorn Bank Community Room on Thursday morning for the United Way Pacesetter Breakfast.
"This is the kickoff of our pacesetter campaign," said Barb Prasad, committee co-chair for the United Way." Thirty companies in our community decide to be the first people to go out and raise money, and they do it before the official start of the campaign."
The businesses assembled their leadership to learn about the 2014 campaign for the United Way, and how to support and participate in it, Prasad said. The free coffee and pastries probably don't hurt though.
"Pacesetters are so important, I mean they end up raising about 48 percent of the overall funds raised," said Andy Fechtel, campaign co-chair. "So to get these guys energized and ready to go sets the tone for the whole campaign and really kind of ensures we start off on the right foot."
The pacesetters begin raising money before the community kickoff event, which is when the United Way volunteers announce their theme and hand the baton off to the people to start donating.
"It is always good to get this group of people together," said Bernie Fechtel, Andy's father and owner of Fechtel Beverage. "They are always very dynamic and committed to the United Way. And it is fun to hear the heads of the industries and their employees get excited about the campaign."
Fechtel Beverage contributed more than $15,000 to last year's campaign, the Fechtels said.
"With our 90 employees, we have about 98 percent participation in the Untied Way campaign," said John Kehoe, president of Osage Industries. "We just feel like it is important to the community to give back, and we try to stress to our people to Live United 365."
Osage Industries builds ambulances and is located in Linn, Kehoe said. Last year, the company raised approximately $43,000, he said.
The businesses have several ways to raise the money for the campaign. Some sell chances for an hour's worth of pay to win things like a day off or a free dinner. Some employers, like Fechtel, will match any donations from their employees. Other businesses go out and collect donations from their employees and other businesses within the community.
Providence Bank is one of the businesses that collects from their employees and business partners, said Mike Hoelscher, senior vice president of Providence Bank. The bank has offices in Missouri and Texas, and all together contributes more than $1 million to the United Way every year, Hoelscher said.
"I have been involved with the United Way for a long, long time, since back in the '90s," Hoelscher said. "It seems like our goal is over $1 million, and as far as I can remember we have always hit that. We got $1.5 million this year, and hopefully we will get there."
This year's campaign theme is "There is no place like home," from the Wizard of Oz. The volunteers would not announce all the events for the year that relate to the theme, but they did give one example and said there were more planned. The businesses will compete to see which can construct the best scarecrow, Andy Fechtel said.
"We are just using that theme to motivate the people that are going out and raising money," Prasad said. "By having some internal events with the fundraisers on having the courage to raise money, the heart to go out in our community, and the brains to make all this happen."