Every fall sees the return of our children to school and the resuming of our normal routines at summer’s end. Another sign of fall in the Greater Peoria Area is the kick-off of the Heart of Illinois United Way (HOIUW) campaign. The theme for the 2008 HOIUW campaign is “Live United.”
As co-chairs of the 2008 HOIUW campaign, my wife, Paula, and I have seen the excitement generated within numerous companies firsthand. It has been truly rewarding to visit the agencies which receive funding from the HOIUW. Although Paula and I have been involved with the HOIUW since we came to Peoria, we now have an even deeper understanding of the organization’s impact on individuals every single day.
What has been particularly energizing for me in visiting companies has been the excitement and enthusiasm around their company campaigns. It is particularly fun to watch fellow CEOs take part in activities that poke fun at themselves and put them into embarrassing situations to help raise money for the HOIUW. From the eBay-type auction that ATS has under Jeff Owens and Jim Hefti to the Commerce Bank Café under Brent Eichelberger to the watermelon seed-spitting contest at River City Construction under Bernie Koch and Kevin Carter to the union event at Brewers Distributing under Mike Everett and Dan Silverthorn, creative ideas are overflowing!
There are two key points that United Way staff, campaign ambassadors and cabinet members are emphasizing this year: First, the importance of participation—whether it is $2, $200 or $2,000—increasing the level of participation makes a huge impact. Even a minimum $2 per two-week pay period expectation amounts to $52 and, with an additional 100 participants, that’s $5,200. It is pretty easy to see that increasing participation can add up to a significant amount. There is no donation too small to make an impact.
Secondly, as we head into the fall, the Greater Peoria Area is enjoying very solid employment and a solid economy. The vast majority of us are doing well despite high gas prices and other issues affecting the national market. Unfortunately, those people who need support from HOIUW agencies the most are the ones who are most adversely impacted by high gas prices and other factors that are making their lives more difficult. Because many United Way member agencies have been impacted by drastic state cuts for health and human care services, it is imperative that we have a successful campaign.
Last year, under the tremendous leadership of Margie and Bill Springer, the HOIUW became a top-tier United Way agency by reaching and exceeding the goal of $9 million. We are the smallest community to be a United Way top-tier organization within the United States. This speaks volumes about the caring nature of the people in the Greater Peoria Area. We seek to remain in that top tier and find the resources necessary for those in need so we can truly say that within the Greater Peoria Area, we “Live United"! iBi