United Way surpasses $2.5 million in 2008

Posted Jan. 29, 2009, at 9:37 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Despite a rocky regional economy and widespread layoffs over the past several months, the United Way of Eastern Maine raised more than $2.54 million during its annual fundraising campaign, 2008 Campaign Chairman George Eaton announced Thursday night.

The funds will help more than 45,000 local families, seniors and other people facing crises, Eaton said during a campaign finale, hosted by Darling’s Ford-VW, Audi on Hogan Road. More than 100 people attended.

Although the amount raised to date is about 6 percent below the 2008 target and 4 percent less than what was raised the year before, this year’s effort was deemed a major coup, given the fact that United Ways nationally are falling about 10 percent short of their goals.

“With all the news of layoffs and businesses closing, you might expect the mood to be somber, but giving at many of our largest employers is up significantly over last year,” Eaton said, noting that a number of nonprofits also boosted their participation in the United Way campaign effort.

“As I said to one of my colleagues today, I feel kind of like the pilot of the jet that landed in the Hudson last week or the week before. I’m sure he didn’t plan to land there, but he said it could have been a lot worse,” Eaton said in summing up a tough year for fundraising.

“Really, we should be proud of ourselves, so thank you,” said Eaton, who is passing the campaign chairman baton onto Jerry Whalen of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.

A highlight of each year’s finale has been the drawings for donor prizes, which this year included a Jeep Compass from Darling’s.

Though this year’s winner, University of Maine history professor Mike Lang, was at a conference in Germany on Thursday, his wife, Susan Pinette, was thrilled to accept the keys on his behalf.

“I’m so stunned right now — we were looking for a car,” said Pinette, who brought the couple’s son Aaron Lang with her to the finale.

Other winners were: Hollywood Slots employee Michael Camire, L.L. Bean kayak package; Kimberly Taylor of the American Red Cross, scooter from Stanley Scooters; and Seven Islands Land Co. employee Steven West, 500 gallons of R.H. Foster heating oil.

More than 10,000 donors at about 350 workplaces gave to United Way this year.

Funds from the campaign benefit programs at partner nonprofits in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo and Washington counties. United Way also supports collaborative initiatives, including 211 Maine, a hotline linking programs and services with those who need them; CA$H, a free tax preparation and money management training program; and the Eastern Maine Funders Energy Initiative.

To donate or for more information about the United Way, call 941-2800 or visit www.unitedwayem.org.

For a list of campaign-related business award winners click the related story link below.

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