BANGOR, Maine — The racetrack at Bass Park was a sea of bright-colored banners and T-shirts at noon Thursday as the United Way of Eastern Maine kicked off its 2009 fundraising campaign. Teams from more than 50 area employers and participating agencies thronged the racetrack and the adjacent stands as reggae and other lively music set a party atmosphere.
United Way helps fund partnerships among local social service agencies aimed at improving health, education and employment options for Mainers.
“Our goal is to raise money to help more than 40,000 residents of eastern Maine,” said John Kuropchak, president of the United Way of Eastern Maine, which has headquarters in Bangor but serves individuals and families in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo and Washington counties. The overall goal of the campaign is $2.5 million, most of which will be raised from individual workers in the form of modest deductions from their weekly paychecks.
About 30 city of Bangor employees were there on their lunch breaks, marching around the track with Mayor Gerry Palmer setting the pace.
“We always have a good turnout every year,” Palmer said. The majority of the city’s approximately 400 employees will contribute to the campaign, he said.
Also on hand was a group of about a half-dozen employees from the Eastern Maine AIDS Network. Director Patsy Murphy said the grass-roots agency relies on a patchwork of funding sources to help meet the medical, educational and social needs of people with HIV and AIDS. Funds from United Way of Eastern Maine each year help pay for case management services, she said, to ensure that individuals take full advantage of services they are qualified for.
Other participating teams represented both donor and recipient agencies, including the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, Camden National Bank, the Good Samaritan Agency, the Girl Scouts of Maine, Hannaford, Webber Energy Fuels and many others.
Mike Openshaw of Lead Me Media in Brewer was there to support his fiancee, Lisa Sargent, who is a senior manager at the firm of Berry, Dunn, McNeil and Parker, an accounting firm in Bangor.
“She had no idea I was coming,” Openshaw said, holding a sign with Sargent’s name on it.
“This is the sixth year she’s been doing this with Berry, Dunn, McNeil and Parker,” he said, “I told her I’d come out and support her.”
The couple plans to marry on Oct. 10, 2010 — 10-10-10.
“She’s an accountant,” Openshaw said. “She had to pick that date.”
Local businesses have donated prizes to encourage regular payroll donations of as little as $2 a week to the United Way campaign.
Prizes include a 2009 Ford Focus donated by Darling’s, a Schwinn scooter from Stanley Scooters, 500 gallons of heating oil from R.H. Foster Energy and a $500 gift card from L.L. Bean.
On the Web: www.unitedwayem.org