By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — —
United Way of South Central Illinois celebrated its 2012 fundraising campaign success on Saturday during the fourth annual Red Feather Ball.
One of the highlights of the evening is the presentation of the Champion of Hope Award which was presented to Kevin Settle, former District 80 superintendent, and the 2011 United Way campaign chairman. Settle spent 34 years as an educator in Mt. Vernon before retiring a year ago.
In presenting the award, President Bill Whisenant noted the award "embodies the spirit of philanthropy" and goes to someone who is "a thoughtful, caring citizen and a champion of hope."
Whisenant said Settle has been a "pillar in the community" since the 1970's, with work in the Mt. Vernon Rotary Club, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Boy Scouts, trustee of the First United Methodist Church, Minority Affairs Commission, Chamber of Commerce and a recipient of the American Heritage Award presented by the NAACP.
In presenting his annual report, Whisenhunt announced that GenFed is the organization's first Cornerstone Partner, based on their efforts to provide United Way with a new home. In 2012, the agency provided funds to 18 agencies and 26 community programs, including Stuff the Buss, Nutrition on Weekends, Angel Tree/shoe drive, Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and Lifeboat Alliance. A fun in need auction, with Brandon Bullard as the emcee, collected several thousand dollars for the Imagination Library, which will provide free books for area children. A silent auction was also held.
United Way's total community investment impact amounted to $553,572 in 2012, including $46,000 for in-kind support and nearly $192,000 in partner agency allocations.
Continental Tire of the Americas was the top business contributor with $24,324 in donations, followed by $22,547 in anonymous donations to Nutrition on Weekends. The remaining top 10 corporate sponsors, in descending order , were: Ameren/Illinois Power, Good Samaritan Regional Heatlh Center, Bennett Metal/Midwest Hydraulics, UPS, Tri-County Electric Cooperative, NAPA Distribution, National Railway, and Crossroads Community Hospital.
Carol Rudofski, 2012 campaign chair, said this year's drive is a great example of the organization's credo: Live United, and the call to action: Give. Advocate. Volunteer.
"When we answer that call and come together to forge solutions, we are indeed living united," she said. "The actions of our response are what enables us to do even more to address the needs of our children, our homeless, our friends and neighbors. We do this because we know that when we reach out a hand to one person, we improve the quality of life for all of us in our community."
Rudofski added that giving in 2012 was a challenge for many companies and individuals because of the economy.
"When that happens, you just switch up your strategies, forge ahead and keep going…that is what makes this United Way so great, because its volunteers are resilient and optimistic and hopeful. A 'no' this year gives them another opportunity to ask next year," she said.
Rhonda Edmison, executive director of United Way, recognized two retiring board members, Debi Richardson and Julie Webb. She also announced new board members Angie Litton, Kent McMahon, Mary Haney, Kim Claffey, and Rudofski.
The organization chose a rather unique way of introducing its co-campaign chairmen for the 2013 campaign, which kicks off on April 1, by introducing them as a starting lineup of a basketball team. Team members include: Brett Hall, Mike Beard, Kelly Carrico, Norma Fairchild and Settle — all former campaign chairs.
The Jorrells, a seven-piece brass band, provided musical entertainment.