BANGOR, Maine — Every year, United Way of Eastern Maine launches its annual fundraising campaign with the goal of raising more money and helping more people in need than the previous year.
The campaign, according to this year’s chairman, Jay Muth of Camden National Bank, is an investment by an entire community into programs that benefit the less fortunate.
But where does that money go?
It goes to places like the Shaw House and to people like Tyler.
Tyler, who just turned 18 and declined to give his last name, ended up at the Shaw House, a youth homeless shelter in Bangor, the same way most do: His home life was less than desirable, so he left.
Through the shelter and its transitional housing program, Tyler was provided enough stability to finish high school and work toward his goal of becoming an electrician. He enrolled at Eastern Maine Community College in the fall.
United Way of Eastern Maine kicked off its 2010 campaign Thursday with an event at Bass Park that brought together member agencies that are supported by the generosity of many businesses and individuals. The event also recognized success stories such as Tyler that make their generosity that much more fulfilling.
Susan Savell of Maine State Communities for Children and Youth, one of United Way’s member organizations, shared Tyler’s story. She explained that everyone has a “spark,” and those who donate, volunteer and advocate on behalf of Untied Way become spark igniters.
Last year, United Way raised more than $2.2 million, which helped support 69 programs and 41 agencies in Greater Bangor and beyond. This year’s goal, as always, is to build off the previous year.
“Requests for assistance are increasing all the time; that’s why this work is so important,” Muth told a crowd of hundreds gathered on the bleachers overlooking the racetrack. “We see families who thought they would never need help asking for help.”
The theme for this year’s fundraiser is superheroes. United Way employees donned red capes at Thursday’s kickoff to showcase that theme. Dozens of local businesses and agencies were represented at the event.
Among the biggest needs this year, according to Muth, is addressing hunger. United Way spokeswoman Emma Pope-Welch said a new program will be launched in Piscataquis County that provides backpacks of food to needy children each Friday. That way, when they come back to school on Mondays, they can focus on more than just the rumbling in their bellies.
For information on the 2010 campaign or United Way’s member programs, go to www.unitedwayem.org.