BANGOR, Maine — Although the economy remains in a slump, the United Way of Eastern Maine expects to raise more than $2.25 million during its annual fundraising campaign, 2009 Campaign Chairman Jerry Whalen announced Thursday night.
The $2,253,416 that United Way is projected to raise during this year’s campaign will help more than 45,000 local families, seniors and other people facing crises, Whalen said during a campaign finale, hosted by Darling’s Ford-VW, Audi on Hogan Road.
About 9,000 donors at more than 350 workplaces have pledged to United Way this year, according to a news release issued Thursday.
Although the amount the campaign expects to raise from those pledges and donations is about 10 percent less than last year’s total, this year’s effort was considered a major coup.
“Throughout the campaign, we saw excellent community response — including 35 percent of our workplace campaigns increasing this year,” Whalen said.
“With news of layoffs and businesses closing, we anticipated a tough year, but this same challenge gave us a constant reminder of how important the work of United Way really is,” Whalen said.
A highlight of each year’s finale has been the drawings for donor prizes, which this year included a Ford Focus from Darling’s.
Newburgh resident Daniel Kochis, a superintendent for Sargent Corp., at first looked stunned, then blown away, when he realized he’d won the car.
“It’s not every day that you win a new car,” said Kochis, who noted Thursday night that his usual ride is a GMC pickup truck.
Given his choice of red, silver or black, Kochis went with black.
Accompanying Kochis to the drawing was his daughter Chelsea Kochis, who turns 23 on Monday and thought a new car would make an excellent present. She noted, however, that her 17-year-old brother, Zakary Kochis, who was playing basketball for the Old Town High School team that night, probably wouldn’t mind driving it either.
“We might have to fight for it,” she said with a laugh.
Other winners were: Bruce Roscher of Neurology Associates of Eastern Maine Healthcare, a Schwinn scooter from Stanley Scooters; Robert Twitchell of Hannaford, 500 gallons of R.H. Foster heating oil; and Richard Knappe of Hannaford, a $500 L.L. Bean gift card.
Funds from the campaign benefit programs at United Way partner nonprofit organizations in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo and Washington counties. United Way also supports collaborative initiatives, including 211 Maine, a hot line linking programs and services with those who need them; CA$H, a free tax prepara-tion and money management training program; and the Eastern Maine Funders Energy Initiative.
Last month, United Way launched a new effort to collect nonperishable food items for struggling food pantries and cupboards in its service area, said John Kuropchak, United Way of Eastern Maine’s president.
Although the United Way celebrated its finale Thursday, the fundraising campaign doesn’t end until June, Kuropchak said.
To donate or for information about the United Way, call 941-2800 or visit www.unitedwayem.org.