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United Way kicks off its 2013-14 campaign season
Nearly $500K raised so far
United Community Bank’s Deborah Nelson, left, and Trisha Atkins receive a round of applause Thursday morning for their more than 30 years volunteering for the United Way during a 2013-14 campaign kickoff breakfast at the Gainesville Civic Center.

We are all connected with one another.

That was the message of the annual United Way of Hall County’s campaign kickoff event Thursday.

“Connecting in its essence means understanding that we don’t walk through this life alone,” said the organization’s president, Jackie Wallace.

The kickoff event brought together United Way volunteers, businesses and partner agencies as they prepared to raise funds and spend time in the community.

“It’s a unique goal this year,” said 2013 Campaign Chairman David Abee. “We took it out of last year’s results as well to really focus on (making) a difference, to engage more in the community, to give to more agencies and more programs than we did last year.”

He added that last year, United Way gave to more programs in the areas of education, income and health than ever before, with 37 new direct programs with groups like Eagle Ranch, Good News Clinics and Brenau University.
Wallace called education, income and health the “building blocks for a good life for all.”

“Now we’re giving directly to needs rather than a set group of agencies,” Abee added.

For example, funding designated for Eagle Ranch goes to counseling for at-risk children, while there is also funding for the Community Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program.

So far, $499,467.66 has been raised by the Cornerstone Campaign, collecting from local businesses.

In the 2012-13 campaign season, a little more than $1.8 million was raised by the Hall United Way.

Talk radio personality and author Ken Coleman was the guest speaker, encouraging members of the audience to find their “sweet spot” connection with their strengths and their passions.

“You matter,” Coleman said. “You may not think you matter, but you matter.”

He said that when a person or an agency finds that “sweet spot,” the potential to change lives is “unbelievable.”
To build on the theme of connectivity, Tinkertoys were distributed to guests.

“We talked a lot about connecting today,” said Kelly Lee, chairwoman of the executive committee. “And these toys will serve as a reminder to you as you go back to work that you’re all connected. That you are a critical (person) for the success of this community. We all have a unique role to play in this community.”

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