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United Way surpasses goal, crosses $2.4 million mark

by Joe Gamm | November 4, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Julie Smith/News Tribune Josh Gentges signs the words to "Pure Imagination" sung by Curtis Sudduth Thursday morning at the United Way of Central Missouri's Victory Celebration at Missouri Farm Bureau. Gentges attended The Special Learning Center as a child where he learned sign language. He kept with it over the years as spent time as a professional interpreter. He returned to Jefferson City where he now works with students at SLC as a para-professional.

The United Way of Central Missouri raised more than $2.4 million during its 2022 fundraising campaign -- continuing about a decade of record-setting efforts.

Some companies' campaigns continue, but projections show supporters of the campaign have pledged $2,432,367.

The nonprofit's leadership announced the total during its annual Victory Celebration breakfast Thursday morning.

Central Missouri has faced a number of challenges during the past four years, leaders said.

But the community has risen to face those challenges, United Way Board Chairman Andy Fechtel told listeners.

Fechtel spoke to more than 200 people gathered for the United Way's annual celebration -- recognizing the end of its annual fundraising campaign.

"Everyone in this room knows it's been a challenging few years for our community," he said. "We can't thank you enough for allowing us to lean on you for even more support during these recent unprecedented times."

He reminded listeners of the slogan for the 2022 campaign: So shines a good deed in a weary world, taken from the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."

"There are thousands in our community who need the resources of United Way's partner agencies," Fechtel said. "Resources which feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide harbor for abused and neglected."

Partner agencies support people struggling with physical and mental health challenges, find foster homes for children, and provide hope for people in their darkest days, he continued. United Way agencies provide a safety net for people in their darkest days.

Most of the people attending the celebration, Fechtel said, are blessed to have their own personal networks of support -- including family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

"But there are so many in our community who don't have that person or those people. With your help, the United Way of Central Missouri is here for people in need, when they need us the most," he said. "As a United Way supporter, you are that person for those in our community who have no one else."

Cassandra Atchison and Kyle Shimmens, the campaign co-chairs, provided details on the campaign results.

Freeman Mortuary, Wall Street Group, Wren Solutions, Genesis Company, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce and Missouri Auto Dealers Association each had 100 percent participation from employees during the campaign, Shimmens said.

Pacesetters -- 31 businesses who start their campaigns earlier than other members of the community -- typically raise a little less than half the campaign's goal on any given year. This year's goal was $2.3 million. Pacesetters raised $1,167,889 -- about 50.5 percent of the goal.

The Professional Division of the campaign raised $12,845 according to Atchison.

The Special Events Division (and special givers) of the campaign raised $129,066.

The Public Service Division -- including Jefferson City, Cole County and schools -- raised $100,416.

The Small Business Division raised $209,256.

The State Government Division raised $110,000.

The Major/Large Firms Division raised $702,892.

Companies have been creative in their fundraising efforts, Atchison said.

Hitachi Energy, Shimmens said, conducted a "salvage day" to benefit the United Way. It provided an opportunity for employees to purchase scrap steel for their own personal use. Twenty-one people purchased more than 41,000 pounds of scrap steel, and raised $7,500.

Scholastic Inc. is still finalizing its campaign, but projects a $26,000 increase over last year, Shimmens said.

"Each year, Diamond Pet Foods amazes us with their contributions. They increased their gift from last year by $25,000 -- for an unprecedented $275,000 gift," Shimmens said.

The event concluded when Curtis Sudduth sang "Pure Imagination," a song British composers Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote for "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." As Sudduth sang, Josh Gentges translated the words into American Sign Language.

Gentges attended the Special Learning Center in the 1990s, and first learned ASL at the center. He became so proficient in sign language that the Disney Corporation hired him as a sign language interpreter. Now, Gentges works at SLC as a paraprofessional, assisting children with hearing impairments.

photo Julie Smith/News Tribune Jack Shimmens reveals one of the numbers in the total projected amount that the United Way Campaign will raise this year. Standing at left is Jack's dad, Kyle Shimmens, and at right dressed as a blueberry is Cassandra Atchison, co-chair to the outgoing Shimmens.
photo Julie Smith/News Tribune Josh Gentges, left, signs the words to "Pure Imagination" sung by Curtis Sudduth Thursday morning at the United Way of Central Missouri's Victory Celebration at Missouri Farm Bureau. Gentges attended The Special Learning Center as a child where he learned sign language. He kept with it over the years as spent time as a professional interpreter. He returned to Jefferson City where he now works with students at SLC as a para-professional.

Print Headline: United Way surpasses goal, crosses $2.4 million mark

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