PLAINS TWP. – Fundraising volunteers and major contributors to this year's United Way of Wyoming Valley campaign gathered on Thursday for a campaign-closing event to celebrate raising $4.1 million to help the area's neediest residents.
Following a cocktail hour in the Grand Ballroom at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, guests made their way to their seats to the Black Eyed Peas hit I Gotta Feeling (It's Gonna Be a Good Night) for the program hoisted by United Way of Wyoming Valley President and CEO Bill Jones.
I think tonight will be a good night, Jones said. Not only is tonight a good night to celebrate and be thankful, it is a night that caps off a wonderful year for the United Way and a campaign that will certainly be good and welcome news to our community.
Jones characterized donors as philanthropists, who demonstrate the definition of the word not only by your giving, but you genuinely care about the community and the well-being of our neighbors.
He said fundraising was a challenge, given the economic climate, high rate of unemployment, and disturbingly high rate of poverty in our region, which led to an increased human service need and decreased capacity to meet those needs.
Still, the campaign exceeded last year's by nearly $70,000.
Jones extended a special thanks to Bryne Lewis, United Way vice president of development and strategic planning, whom he said not only re-energized the campaign, but re-engineered it, beginning a process of deepening our relationships with many of our leading and most important companies.
Frank Joanlanne, board member and campaign chairman, recognized some of the heads of those companies, who took initiatives to encourage employees to donate and significantly stepped up contributions this year.
In a humorous audio-visual presentation of a Top 10 List reminiscent of late night talk show host David Letterman's, Joanlanne presented the Top 10 of Campaign 2012.
Winning the No. 7 spot for Most Creative and Fun campaign was WBRE/WYOU, where General Manager Bob Bee made an interesting proposition to his staff. If employee donors increased by 30, he would wear a dress to the company Christmas party. A video showed him in the women's section of a store holding up various dresses to his body while chatting to the camera.
Troy Standish at Sallie Mae made the list for Leading by Example. He committed to increasing his own personal pledge by $100 for every $250 increase by one of their leadership givers, Joanlanne said, noting the company has more than 1,000 employees. Video showed Standish sitting at his desk and sweating it out while punching numbers into a calculator and asking, What was I thinking?
Noted in the list for Most Improved Campaign was MotorWorld Auto Group, where employee donations increased more than 300 percent, from $3,400 to $15,400, and the number of participating employees increased from 12 to 136. MotorWorld President Rick Osick said that when he saw the company's statistics from last year while attending a campaign kickoff meeting and compared them to state averages, I thought, boy, we could do a lot better than this.
Working with his team, Osick said he and employees Stacy Otero and Shelly Puzzetti came up with some ideas and took some ideas away from that breakfast that just kind of revitalized our campaign. Once we asked our employees, they were very generous and they responded.
Michelle Kovaleski, of Benco Dental, was recognized with a selection of items donated by Valentine's Jewelry for earning the most points of all campaign coordinators by attending and holding campaign events. Club 100 recognized small businesses that donated a minimum of $100 for the first time or increased their gift by $100 or more; 38 members were welcomed to the club, with 21 companies increasing past contributions. J&J Deli & Catering, Payne Printery and O'Donnell Law Offices won ad packages donated by The Times Leader for that category. Bill Sordoni, president of the United Way Board of Directors, thanked Joanlanne, all of the donors and the volunteers.
It's been an amazing experience. … We had a lot of organizational changes and at the same time, everybody rose to the occasion, Sordoni said.
The recruitment of a Campaign Cabinet helped the campaign connect more effectively with the community – 573 new donors were recruited this year, an increase of 12 percent to the donor base.Ben Franklin once said, ‘Well done is better than well said.' And … this campaign was extremely well done, Sordoni said.
Individual donors who contributed a minimum of $3 per week to th3e United Way of Wyoming valley 2012 campaign could enter into a drawing for prizes. Those winners were:
Sue Helwig, of Misericordia University, won a two-year lease of a 2012 Toyota Camry donated by MotorWorld.
Bill Geiger, of Procter & Gamble, won a Pump ‘N' Pantry gift card.
David Koch, of Wyoming Valley Motors, won use of a luxury suite at Mohegan Sun Arena for hockey games donated by Citizens Bank.
John Levitsky, of Borton-Lawson, won a Mohegan Sun gift card.
Irene Muldoon, of Eye Care Specialists, won products from Procter & Gamble.
And a winner who asked to remain anonymous donated a Wegmans shopping spree to Ruth's Place homeless shelter for women.