A dull roar of mingling filled the third floor of Central Bank as Jefferson City business owners, charity leaders, members of local media and government employees hobnobbed at the campaign premiere for the United Way on Tuesday evening.
"This is an opportunity to get all those people together and say thank you, first and foremost," said Ann Bax, president of the United Way of Central Missouri. "And secondly, to give them a sneak peak at the campaign, and to be an advocate for us, to go out and spread the word that the campaign is upon us."
An assortment of cheese, crackers and berries were served to guests along with beer, wine and water to wash it down. Some attended in suit and tie, or a slim fitting cocktail dress, while others socialized in shorts and a T-shirt. Despite the differences in dress, the group came together to support the United Way, and to laugh at the Bax's and the campaign co-chairs' comic video that spoofed the "Wizard of Oz."
This year's campaign theme is "There is no place like home," and the organization's goal is to raise $1.75 million, which is $50,000 more than the 2013 goal. On Aug. 28, the Community Kick Off will pass the baton on raising money to the community from the pacesetters, the 30 businesses that start the campaign events to raise money. In November, the campaign will end and United Way volunteers will announce if they have met their goal.
Between now and the end, the organization's partner agencies and businesses will host multiple events - such as glow runs, barbecues and tricycle races - to raise awareness and money. The majority of the money raised is from payroll deductions from pacesetter businesses.
"We really try to convince the employees to give through payroll deduction to make it a part of their everyday lives to help other people," said Dan Westhues, past chair of United Way and senior vice president for Central Bank. "That is Central Banks motto and we like to have employees do the same."
Barb Prasad and Andy Fechtel, co-chairs for this year's campaign, also shared an emotional video with the audience that demonstrated how United Way creates a home away from home for some, helps single parents raise their children, and senior citizens live independently.
Fechtel explained how the agencies don't just help the individuals of the community, but also each other. For instance, he said, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Services use the city's food bank to help nourish its members. He issued a challenge for each in attendance to talk about the organization to two different people in the next week.
"We receive 50 percent of our budget form the United Way, we are also a sponsor program of the YMCA here locally," said Lee Knernschield, program director for Missouri Valley Big Brothers and Big Sisters. "I am here just to support the United Way cause and to hear more about the campaign details. The United Way is really important to us as an agency to be able to make a sure that funding is raised to continue to do what we do, as well as the other 26 agencies supported by the United Way."
Contributing to the United Way's past success on its goals is the role it take in local communities of Morgan, Moniteau, Cole, Osage, Miller, Camden and southern Callaway counties. More than 90 cents of every dollar stays in Mid-Missouri and changes peoples lives, Bax said. While she and the co-chairs spoke to the crowd they showed confidence in getting to their new goal that could be met if every donation was increased by $5.
"It is great to do great things for the community and have fun while you are doing it," Bax said. "And I think that is certainly a high priority for all of the businesses that participate, but it is also about raising awareness in their own organization and giving back to the community."