by Kyle Halter
The United Way of Portage County announced Wednesday, Dec. 6 at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wisconsin that it raised a record-breaking $3,048,991 during its annual campaign with the Blenker family, the campaign chairs for 2017.
The amount raised this year transcends the yearly goal of $2.85 million and also the previous year’s total of $2,932,411.
According to Sue Wilcox, executive director at United Way of Portage County, the money raised for 2017 will allow the United Way of Portage County to meet their budgetary goals, sustain the programs and services that are critical to Portage County and also, educate the public about what the United Way accomplishes and does for the community.
The outpouring of support from the community in 2017 means that United Way of Portage County will be able to help even more people who are in most need of their services.
“It also tells us that the community recognizes the need in leveraging the dollars to the most good,” Wilcox said. “Records like this are gratifying, but the work United Way and United Way programs provide is what matters most.”
Wilcox said the campaign owes its success to every person and every business who gave to the United Way or volunteered for United Way.
Wilcox said this includes large organizations that contributed amounts reflective of their size and ability as well as the many small businesses that ran equally impressive campaigns—just at a different scale.
Individual giving typically makes up roughly 65 percent of the annual campaign. A number of these individuals contribute large gifts of $500 or more and there’s another 5,000 donors, on average, who contribute in lesser amounts.
“When combined together, every donation makes a difference, every donation counts and every donation contributes to the goal of United Way,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox said United Way of Portage County relies on having as many individuals and businesses as possible, whether they’re large or small, to work toward a consistent goal— to provide a hand up to our county’s most vulnerable populations.
“The residents and businesses in Portage County are a model of generosity,” Wilcox said. “Their compassion enhances our quality of life with a unique blend of community and camaraderie. 2017’s record-breaking campaign makes it clear that we live in a really special place and with a lot of exceptionally caring people.”
Wilcox said she also owes the Blenker family for their commitment to the United Way of Portage County and for helping inspire the community, who contributed to making this campaign a record shattering one.
“As our drive chair family, the Blenkers have been incredible,” Wilcox said. “They have been very active in all things United Way this year. And by being so focused on building a better community, they have inspired others to not only give, but to volunteer for United Way and United Way funded programs. Adding their voice—as drive chairs and as advocates for United Way—will help galvanize the need for all of us to work collectively as we take on our community’s most current and critical issues.”
Wilcox said with the Blenker family as the drive chairs, it allowed the United Way of Portage County to connect with not only Amherst, but all rural communities within the area.
“The Blenkers were focused on ‘building a better community,’ and they truly meant all of the communities in Portage County,” Wilcox said. “United Way is all about community and the Blenker family exemplifies what it means to LIVE UNITED.”
“I learned what an inspired community we have,” Blenker said. “Everything that youread in the news, listen to in the news and see on TV, you’d think that the world is coming to an end. But we have a lot of people that are passionate about giving and paying it forward and it makes me very humble to live in the community that we live in and I want to thank each and every one of you for all the work that you do to make the United Way drive successful.”
Pamela Jewell, owner at Blenker Companies, Inc., said this announcement was not only a win for the campaign chairs but a win for the people who live in Portage County to make their community a better place to live and work.
“When everyone chips in and does their share, nothing is unattainable,” Jewell said. “It is true that ‘many hands make light work’—from our family, to past drive chairs, to the United Way staff, to all the campaign coordinators and to every individual who dipped into their pocket books for a contribution: they all played a part in this year’s success,” Jewell said.
Because of the monetary donations, Jewell said Portage County will have a greater understanding of what programs are funded with United Way and that these programs can help people with almost any problem that may arise.
Two of these programs that Jewell wants people to know about are 2-1-1 and the work that United Way of Portage County does with the Ministry Dental Center. 2-1-1 connects people in Portage County with community- based health and human services resources. Ministry Dental Center provides relief for low- income families with access to dental care.
“I am basically a ‘problem solver,’ so it does my heart good to help others find solutions,” Jewell said. “I hope that we are remembered for our willingness to give back for all we have been given and for our dedication to work to make this a better place to live for everyone. And that we don’t just wear the shirt, but live it.”