United Way of Kennebec Valley launched its 2020 fundraising season with $995,802 in committed support at the Campaign Kickoff Drive-in. Twenty-four businesses reported their advance campaign success to a crowd of more than 80 cars of people at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday, according to a news release from the Augusta nonprofit organization.

UWKV Campaign co-chairmen Sarah and Chris Voynik announce early pacesetter results at the Campaign Kickoff Drive-in. Ledgehill Photography photo

Chris and Sarah Voynik, from Laflin & Wolfington Realty and Merrill’s Detector Dog Services, are co-chairing United Way’s annual appeal effort. According to recent data, 33 percent of Kennebec Valley residents received direct support from a United Way-funded program. This year, because of COVID-19, United Way will be focusing on helping more people than ever — announcing a goal of supporting 56,000 people, which is 75 percent of the Kennebec Valley population.

“We thought that now was more important than ever to step up and co-chair the United Way campaign because Sarah and I grew up here and thought this was the best way give back,” Chris Voynik said, according to the release. “Donations have never been more important; our community is counting on us. That is why we are asking you to reach a little deeper this year, if possible, so our partners programs can continue to operate at high capacity.”

The Voyniks are charged with rallying the people of Kennebec Valley to give any amount they can to support community members who need a hand-up. Numbers reported from the COVID-19 Response Fund indicate that United Way has already helped 25,000 people access basic need services in 2020.

They also presented the organization’s 2020 campaign video, which showcased the campaign theme, “Lead the Way,” and highlighted how the community came together this past spring. Together, central Maine people will lead the way for a stronger, healthier Kennebec Valley by supporting 50 nonprofit programs.

Sarah Miller, of Bridging the Gap, accepts a basic essentials donation during the “Empty your COVID Stockpile” collection. Ledgehill Photography photo

“When considering what community needs we wanted to focus on this year, we felt senior services were greatly important,” Chris Voynik said. “However, our focus shifted a bit with the onset of COVID. Now, more than ever, all of our nonprofit partners need our support so we can ensure that they remain open for many years to come.”

Courtney Yeager, executive director of the organization, thanked attendees for continually answering United Way’s call for help. “It’s no secret that this year has been challenging for all of us,” Yeager said, according to the release. “This pandemic has forced us to get creative about how we raise money — more people are recognizing that they can do something to make a difference to another person. This community is full of people who never fail to inspire me with their commitment to creating change.”

During the event, Angela Hamlin, an attorney at Legal Services for the Elderly, shared the importance of helping the elderly now more than ever.

“Seniors today are more isolated and scared than they ever have been before,” Hamlin said, according to the release. “There is nothing better than being able to get someone’s money and benefits back to make sure that they have a home to self-isolate in and that they have food and much-needed medications.”

Community members and attendees of UWKV’s Kickoff donated more than 2,700 pounds of food and basic need items prior to the event at the “Empty Your COVID Stockpile” collection. Food items were split among United Way’s four partnered food pantries — Winthrop Food Pantry, Augusta Food Bank, Salvation Army and Faith Food Pantry — and the basic need items were donated to Bridging the Gap and Motivational Services. Additionally, attendees of the drive-in donated $1,217 during the event to help all 50 nonprofit partners.

Major event sponsors included Lajoie Brothers Inc., Central Maine Power, G&E Roofing, J.S. McCarthy, Team EJP, KV Federal Credit Union, Kennebec Savings Bank, and Central Church.

To support United Way’s community-wide campaign, call 207-626-3400 or visit uwkv.org/give.
For more information about the United Way, visit uwkv.org.

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