WATERVILLE — The United Way of Mid-Maine on Wednesday kicked off its annual fundraising campaign, announcing its goal is to raise $730,000 for 2013-14.

About 120 people turned out for a breakfast to celebrate the event at Spectrum Generation’s Muskie Center.

“I’m really optimistic about reaching the goal this year,” local United Way president and chief professional officer Tina Chapman said later Wednesday. “I think that it’s a stretch, but it’s attainable.”

The local United Way serves 57 towns in northern Kennebec County and all of Somerset County, as well as four municipalities in western Waldo County. The organization has 27 partner agencies, or those that receive funds from United Way, and 34 programs.

Partner organizations include agencies such as the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, Kennebec Behavioral Health and hospice organizations.

United Way helps people with basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing; and problems involving physical and mental health, family violence, sexual assault, substance abuse and literacy.

Chapman said United Way focuses on three general categories: basic needs, job and life success as well as children and youth.

Last year’s goal was $782,000; $700,000 was raised, she said.

At Wednesday’s event, campaign chairmen T.J. and Kerry Smart, owners of Veilleux and Redington funeral homes, spoke about how they chose this year’s campaign theme, according to Chapman. The theme is “Join Our Team and Make a Difference in Our Communities.”

Special guests — longtime coaches Jimmy Poulin and Dick Whitmore — spoke about the critical elements of teamwork.

Chapman said many people don’t know that the local United Way serves people as far north as Jackman, near the Canadian border, south to China and Belgrade, east to Unity and west to Norridgewock.

Some businesses that donate to the campaign do their own fundraising in-house. Chapman cited the huge gift that can result when 400 employees, for instance, donate just $1 a week.

“Sometimes it’s not necessarily about the size of the gift. It’s more about the participation,” she said.
She said any amount that is affordable for donors counts a lot.

“It reaches probably tens of thousands of people, every year,” she said.

Chapman urges people to follow United Way’s campaign on its website at www.unitedwaymidmaine.org or its Facebook at www.facebook.comunitedwaymidmaine.

This year, Hannaford Bros. has donated a “loaned executive,” Sarah Aviano, to United Way for 12 weeks to help with the campaign. Hannaford pays Aviano to do the work. She is a campaign staff person who goes out into the community and runs the campaign effort.

“She’ll be the contact person for several of our corporate accounts,” Chapman said.

Donors get a chance to win incentive prizes, including a vacation worth $3,000 and donated by Bangor Savings Bank, according to Chapman.

Meanwhile, new thermometer signs erected throughout the campaign area will keep people abreast of the fundraising totals. The signs will be outside the United Way office, at the Ticonic Bridge connecting Waterville and Winslow, at Elm Plaza and at Huhtamaki, as well as in several locations in Somerset County, Chapman said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]