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story.lead_photo.caption In this Nov. 8, 2018 photo at Missouri Farm Bureau Headquarters in Jefferson City, attendees sway and wave their arms to the song "We are the Champions" as United Way of Central Missouri Campaign co-chair Ryan Freeman receives a congratulatory hug from Claudia Kehoe following the announcement that the annual campaign goal was surpassed by more than 18 percent for a projected total of $2.187,521. Standing at left is former UW CEMO President Linda McAnany. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Outside of the Little Discovery Center on a cold January morning in 2017, United Way of Central Missouri and Food Bank staff passed out food from the mobile food pantry for the first time, addressing a gaping need in the community both organizations had witnessed for years.

Amber Brondel, United Way of Central Missouri marketing and communications manager, was one of those volunteers and said it was "one of the most touching moments I have experienced working here."

"It was just such a humbling experience because just seeing all those people in line, there were children without coats, adults without shoes," Brondel recalled. "It's hard to see that, but they were all so happy to be receiving food. That was certainly a day I will never forget. Since then, knowing the people we have reached and the food that has been distributed, it's just incredible."

The Food Bank is one of 28 agencies the United Way of Central Missouri partners with to address needs in the community.

Through Dec. 24, News Tribune readers will read about several United Way of Central Missouri agencies and their clients as part of the News Tribune's annual "Christmas Wish" series. These agencies range from those that help "the hungry, the homeless and the hopeless," Brondel said.

The United Way of Central Missouri covers seven counties: Cole, Miller, Osage, Moniteau, southern Callaway, Morgan and Camden counties. The United Way provides funding to agencies in those counties to help them achieve their individual missions.

Last year, the United Way impacted one in two people in its area — more than 86,000 — Brondel said.

The United Way's 2018 campaign goal was $2 million, but it projected a record pledge of $2,187,520 — a 9 percent increase over its initial goal, Brondel said.

That money is then disbursed to the agencies, helping agencies such as The Food Bank receive a new mobile food pantry; the Salvation Army to provide shelter to the homeless; and Capital Projects to help those with disabilities.

"Our goal is to help everybody — everybody that we possibly can," Brondel said. "To see those dollars come to fruition in the help that people are receiving, it's just incredible to know that we have that support in the community and that we're able to help those people."

Document: United Way 2017 Form 990

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While its goal every year is to help as many people as it can, Brondel said, the United Way also looks for ways to "move the needle on some of those underlying issues."

"(The) United Way finds it important to find a big picture point of view — what is our long-term goal for our community?" Brondel said. "So, while we're helping our agencies every day, United Way's role is to also look at the big picture view of the long-term goals of our community and how we can move the needle. What are the complex problems that we can work to address? If there are many people that are homeless, why are they homeless? What can we do to help battle that before they get into that state?"

Individuals can donate to United Way by visiting unitedwaycemo.org/donate or calling 573-636-4100.

In this series:

Introduction: United Way helps 28 local agencies

'Match' fills voids for Big Brothers Big Sisters pair

Center of Hope helps woman start new life

Capitol Projects 'more than just a job'

Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association gives children safe place to land

Special Learning Center - 'Miracle child,' driven by 'inner light,' defies odds

Boys and Girls Club gives family new opportunity

Smiles abound at Little Explorers Discovery Center

Conclusion: United Way agencies help children, victims

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