With their Pacesetter Kickoff scheduled for August 4 at 8:30 am at Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center in Dothan, the Wiregrass United Way is already gearing up for the fall. But the 2017 Pacesetter Kickoff is about more than just the beginning of the Wiregrass United Way’s fundraising drive to benefit their 44 partnering non-profit agencies—it’s about community volunteers coming together to help serve those in need in the Wiregrass.
The Wiregrass United Way fundraising campaign stretches from mid-September through December, but the Pacesetter campaign is specifically designed to extend the Wiregrass United Way campaign by a month, giving it a big boost on the front end. Pacesetters “literally set the pace for the entire campaign,” says Wiregrass United Way CEO Walter Hill. “They get us started and the momentum and enthusiasm they create always carries over to the other company campaigns across the six-county region,” according to Walter.
Companies that sign up to be a Pacesetter conduct their employee giving campaign in the month of August and have their campaign results reported to the Wiregrass United Way by the official Campaign Kickoff Bus Tour to be held this year on September 19. About 100 companies participate each year in the Pacesetter campaign, with their results typically reaching at least 30 percent of the overall campaign goal for the year.
The Pacesetter Kickoff will be composed of two segments. First on the agenda at 8:30 am will be a 30-minute kickoff program. Board of Trustees Chairman Chere Johnson of Alabama Power Company will give the welcome and introduce the six county board chairs. PR Employer’s Rich Merrell, overall Wiregrass United Way campaign chairman, will introduce the six county campaign chairs and volunteers who serve as this year’s Loaned Executives—key volunteers who help the Wiregrass United Way conduct employee campaigns during the fall. “Our volunteers are the reason our campaigns are successful year after year,” says Walter. “We want to make sure we recognize and thank them for their support.” The grand finale of the kickoff program will be the unveiling of the 2017-18 campaign goal.
Following the kickoff program, attendees will participate in a service project that will help feed those in need in the Wiregrass. The Wiregrass United Way has once again partnered with Numana to package 20,000 meals to be donated to the Wiregrass Area Food Bank. There was an element of competition in last year’s food packaging as volunteers raced to package all 20,000 meals in less than one hour. This year is expected to be no less competitive. “We did it in 57 minutes last year,” says Walter, “so we want to be finished in 56 minutes or less this year. We know we can achieve this since we are experienced and we are expecting a great crowd.”
The meals will then be donated to the Food Bank and will supplement the diets of 1,620 Wiregrass senior citizens participating in the Food Bank’s Brown Bag program. “This is a wonderful exercise that also brings awareness to food insecurity in the Wiregrass,” says David Hanks, Wiregrass Area Food Bank executive director. “The food prepared at this event is perfect for those that are homebound,” he adds. “It’s nutritious and easy to fix.” The meal packages got positive reviews from those that received them as well. “We got good feedback about the meals from our seniors,” says Julie Gonzalez, Food Bank development director. “They really enjoyed the fact that there was a whole meal in one bag—it was easy to prepare and very tasty, too.”
This year’s service project will be sponsored by Morris, Cary, Andrews, Talmadge & Driggers LLC. Both the Wiregrass United Way and the Wiregrass Area Food Bank are grateful for their support. “We could not be able to do this without our corporate sponsor,” says Walter. Partner Mark Andrews says the local law firm was only too glad to help make the project possible. “We are very excited and honored to be a part of the 2017 United Way Pacesetter Kickoff and the Wiregrass Food Bank Packaging challenge,” says Mark. “We are looking forward to working with these wonderful organizations!”
The Wiregrass United Way has served the Wiregrass area since 1938, currently funding 44 member agencies serving Barbour, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties. Partnering agencies provide a multitude of invaluable services to those in need in the Wiregrass in the areas of helping youth succeed, meeting basic needs, serving people with special needs and strengthening families and individuals. Funds raised by Wiregrass United Way are utilized locally in the six-county area (99 cents out of every dollar raised stays in the Wiregrass). A committee of local volunteers determines how the funds are distributed. Last year, the Wiregrass United Way raised over $2.8 million for their partner agencies.
Walter Hill stated, “I am pleased to announce that Jessica Procter, Miss Alabama 2017, will be at our Pacesetter Kickoff on Friday, August 4. her platform is “Step Up to The Plate – Decreasing Food Insecurities.” It is a perfect tie in with us packaging 20,000 meals in less than one hour!! She will sing one song during the program part of the morning and assist with the announcement of the goal.”
For more information, call the Wiregrass United Way at 334-792-9661 or visit their website at www.WUW.org.