It happens every fall: local companies recruit their employees to give a little from their paychecks for a few months during the United Way of Roanoke Valley annual campaign. United Way held a team-building kickoff event recently at the Roanoke Civic Center events hall. Teams played all sorts of games and then had dinner, pumping themselves up for the campaign. Some corporations, like Norfolk Southern, got a head start on donations earlier this year via United Way’s Pacesetter campaign.
United Way president and CEO Frank Rogan greeted people as they arrived at the events center hall. Last year the non-profit’s fall campaign raised more than $6 million dollars, just under the goal it was trying to reach. “We had a good year overall,” said Rogan of a campaign that ended about $150,000 short of the $6.5 million goal. “People were very generous and we’re hoping for the same thing again this year.”
In a still-sluggish economy Rogan is grateful for the support of local businesses and their employees. “We did this [kickoff event] last year with an Olympic theme, since it was an Olympic year,” said Rogan. “We had so much fun we brought it back again this year.”
Rogan thinks the event enforces the idea of teamwork and people pulling towards a common goal of raising money, funds that United Way will disperse to other programs in the Roanoke Valley. Rogan said the money distributed by United Way is based largely on what the local community decides the priorities should be.
Rogan welcomes organizations with programs that fit in to those community priorities, saying they should apply for a United Way grant. Volunteers review the applications and screen the applying agencies. It’s all about “outcome measurements – does it really make a difference in the quality of life for people?” Scoring based on that criteria are used to make funding decisions.
“The most important thing we can do right now is make sure that money donated to United Way is used as wisely as possible …and can be leveraged,” said Rogan. With government funding for many social programs being whittled down Rogan said its crucial for the private sector to be more involved.
The kickoff event was also meant to encourage good health habits by getting people off their backsides – doing things like shooting basketballs and riding scooters during a scavenger hunt. There was also a healthy meal supplied by Kroger.
Rogan said United Way of the Roanoke Valley has redefined its mission in a way, centered now on education, financial stability and good health. “Our main goal right now is to impact [those areas]. The way that we do that is by raising money. We want to reach out to everyone in the Roanoke Valley that is ready to give.” Rogan said United Way would set the final target number for its annual campaign in the coming weeks.
Tim Mills was there with a team from Trane, which is taking part in the annual campaign: “its for a good cause, a good fundraiser.” Fellow Trane employee Wystan Crismond was involved last year as well. He liked the teambuilding exercises but said raising money for United Way, “to do good things in the community,” was really what it was all about. About 100 Trane employees are taking part, including Mac Michaels: “it’s a lot of fun and gets you amped up for United Way giving.”
Mike Wray from Norfolk Southern accounting operations was at the kickoff event with the NS team, which took part in the earlier Pacesetter campaign. “We’re involved with United Way year-round. Our money is already in. We’re really proud of the support [for United Way].” The games played at the annual kickoff event was a chance for people “to get out here and act crazy,” even those that are buttoned-down most of the time. “We’re ready to go,” said Rogan about a campaign that will run through the end of the year.By Gene Marrano