Just minutes after celebrating a record fundraising campaign in 2014, the Souris Valley United Way set its sights higher - much higher - this year.
During the 1st Donor Recognition Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, the United Way announced it had raised $712,382 in its 2014 campaign. The figure was a 20 percent increase over 2013 and an all-time record.
But with the needs in the region growing, United Way is not resting on its laurels. In 2015, the agency has a goal of raising $1 million to help charitable organizations in Minot and the surrounding community.
Kevin Harmon with Minot State University will be the president of the United Way Board in 2015, and he said $1 million is an achievable goal.
"We believe we can do this," he said. "You're going to see a different United Way. We're going to start tomorrow because we need to. We're going to have fundraisers every month of the year, and we used to wait until September. You're going to see us in new communities, and we're going to start today."
The bottom line, Harmon said, is the 28 organizations United Way helps are seeing increased needs and therefore the nonprofits need more funding. With a goal of $1 million, Harmon said Minot can establish itself as a city that helps those in need.
"We can do this," he said. "We don't have to be that city that lags behind anyone. We can raise $1 million. We can do this, but we need your support."
Support and celebrating the individuals and businesses that support the United Way was the theme Wednesday.
First Lady Betsy Dalrymple spoke at the celebration, saying she and Gov. Jack Dalrymple have long supported United Way.
"Taking care of our own is what we do best in North Dakota," Dalrymple said. "Because of your efforts, we're uniting people and resources to benefit the lives of others."
While Dalrymple said she supports all the work being done by United Way, one agency that benefits is close to her heart. As a former school teacher, Dalrymple said she is a big supporter of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The library provides a free book each month for children from birth to the age of 5.
"They're so excited to get a book," Dalrymple said. "Studies have clearly shown early childhood intervention and early literature really do work."
North Dakota's congressional delegation was working in Washington, D.C., but senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer sent recorded messages of support.
"In North Dakota, we truly understand the importance of neighbor helping neighbor," Hoeven said. "The United Way is a prime example. You bless the lives of so many North Dakotans, and we appreciate your service. Working together, we can build better and stronger communities."
Heitkamp said in Minot the United Way plays an even bigger role than normal.
"The United Way provides crucial services to create healthier, stronger communities for everyone," she said. "Your United Way funds 28 local programs. From helping with the 2011 flood recovery to helping with literacy, your United Ways leads the way."
Cramer said giving to organizations like United Way is the best way to help others at home.
"Charities are better than government," Cramer said. "You have more freedom with it, and the United Way does it better than anybody. United we stand. I applaud the loving people of Minot and the Souris Valley who are taking care of people and have done it for so long."
Outgoing board president Megan Grundstrom said 2014 was an exciting and trying year as United Way set a huge fundraising goal and made changes within the organization.
One change was adopting a new mission statement that Grundstrom said represents what the United Way is trying to do. The mission statement reads, "We mobilize people, organizations and resources in an impactful effort to advance Education, Financial Stability, and Health while addressing basic human needs."
Grundstrom said the success of the United Way can be attributed in part to the board she led.
"I want to thank the board," she said. "Everyone worked really hard. I'm incredibly proud to be a part of this board."
Executive Director Pat Smith was also in a celebratory mood.
"Today we're here to celebrate," she said. "We thank you for your commitment and your investment."
Smith said United Way makes a difference in the lives of so many people.
"Everyone deserves the opportunity to have a good life," she said. "We want to help children succeed, and we want to help those who need a little help to become independent. I want to thank everyone who helped make this program a huge success."
Smith also announced the United Way was launching a new website - www.volunteerminot.com - for people who want to make a difference in the community.
Kathy Aas, the 2014 campaign chair, said raising money was not easy, but it was worth the work. Over the last year, Aas and Smith met with 50 businesses about the United Way, and the United Way staff made presentations to 89 businesses and their employees.
"We laid out a challenging goal this year of $880,000," Aas said. "It wasn't about meeting that amount, but as we get closer we can help more people in the community."
- Thank you to David Rupkalvis (Minot Daily News Editor) for writing this great article.