AUGUSTA — United Way of Kennebec Valley, which has helped more than 25,000 local people access basic need services during the COVID-19 pandemic so far, is making its final push to raise enough money to support 56,000 Kennebec Valley residents. Chris and Sarah Voynik, who are chairing the effort, convened a cabinet of community champions last summer to help grow and maintain United Way’s network of donors while asking those who are in a position to give to support the effort, according to a news release from the organization.

Chris, from Laflin & Wolfington Realty, and Sarah, from Merrill’s Detector Dog Services, met with several businesses and individuals in an effort to more than double the number of people supported next year through UWKV’s Community Care and COVID-19 Response Funds. So far, funding to the United Way has helped people access vital programming in the Kennebec Valley, combating food insecurity and mental health issues, and providing shelter to the homeless.

“Chris and I are humbled by the generosity of our community,” Sarah said, according to the release. “During a time when everyone is struggling, our community stepped up to ensure that we get through these difficult times united.”

“Since the start of this campaign season we have seen several workplace campaigns increase by more than 10 percent,” Chris said, according to the release. “The campaign has only two months left, and we invite more businesses and local folks to join us because now, more than ever, our nonprofits need us.”

United Way’s annual campaign typically engages more than 130 local businesses, representing nearly 3,200 donors. Last year gifts to United Way totaled more than $1.8 million and assisted 24,694 people in 50 programs across the Southern Kennebec Valley region.

United Way continues to grow new initiatives that expand the organization’s footprint. More than 40 civic-minded professionals with a passion for volunteering make up the Emerging Leaders Society, which is open to anyone who donates to United Way at $400 or more and volunteers with local organizations. In addition, Sarah has invited local businesses to become members of United Way’s 365 Small Business Circle with a dollar-a-day contribution. More than 45 businesses have already joined this community-wide effort and have raised more than $47,000 in four years.

United Way will unveil its campaign achievements and thank the community on Jan. 27 through a socially distanced, virtual celebration.

There is still an opportunity for businesses and individuals to participate in the campaign. Contact Michelle Boyer at [email protected] or 207-626-3400.

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