United Way of Hall County had a lot to commemorate at its annual year-end celebration at the Gainesville Civic Center Thursday morning.
United Way President Joy Griffin acknowledged the agency’s success in raising nearly $1.6 million in its 2017 campaign.
In 2016, it invested $1.1 million in 37 programs and 27 agencies.
“We are proud of the way this community has come together this year,” said Ruth Demby, the organization’s Read Learn Succeed program coordinator.
That program, which began in 2014, will have a new way of reaching its goal of 100 percent literacy in Hall County. Starting this year, a small book is being given to every child born at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville and Braselton. The educational book will feature the child’s footprints and a short story, which was also translated into Spanish, sponsored by a $25,000 grant by the Medical Center Auxiliary.
The grant will provide a three-year supply of the books.
The auxiliary is also this year’s winner of the United Way of Hall County Advocate Award for its contributions to the project.
Medical Center Auxiliary Past President Dot Pirkle read the book to somewhat rowdy pre-kindergarteners from First Presbyterian Church.
“It may not seem like they’re listening, but they are,” Griffin said.
The children will also receive books from the Longstreet Pediatric Center as they grow older and will have a library of 10 books once they reach the age of 5.
The event also recognized the new Compass Center, which hopes to place needy individuals with the resources they need.
The center’s manager Joshua Silavent said it’s a “one-stop information hub” for people who need it. Out of the 32,000 people living in poverty in Hall County, around 250 calls for help and 80 walk-ins have been met since the center opened March 1.
Silavent credited the center’s volunteers with making the project work day to day.
This year’s Volunteer Award went to Tom Jones, who worked with local churches and nonprofits to “embed (United Way’s) values” and persisted.
The GIVE Award goes to a company that put forth outstanding efforts in the previous year. This year’s award went to Conditioned Air Systems, which is owned by Doug and Diane Magnus, who raised more than $50,000 for United Way.