BANGOR, Maine — It may have been rainy and gloomy outside the Bangor Auditorium Thursday, but the atmosphere was bright inside the old barn as the United Way of Eastern Maine kicked off its annual Fund Drive.
The event is typically held on the Bass Park racetrack, but was moved inside the Auditorium due to the inclement weather.
This year’s chairman, Brian Donahue of Affiliated Healthcare Systems, said the 74th annual campaign benefits those who are less fortunate.
“We’re all excited for the 2011 campaign,” Donahue said. “The great thing about the United Way is your gift stays in the community.”
While addressing the crowd, Donahue said the fundraising goal for this year is $2.5 million.
John Kuropchak, president of United Way of Eastern Maine, is also optimistic about the campaign.
“I’m positive this will be an exciting year,” he said.
This year, the campaign’s focus is on the value of education and mentorship, with a goal of recruiting 350 new volunteers.
University of Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove made that clear when he addressed the crowd.
“The importance of mentoring and tutoring goes way beyond making a difference in life,” Cosgrove said. “We’re all excited to get involved.”
Donahue also wants to stress the importance of a strong education during this year’s campaign.
“We feel that education creates the foundation for the future of our community,” he said. “Working with children is very rewarding, but it also has a great return. It brings back so much to the community.
“Education is a positive thing,” Donahue said. “It reduces crime.”
A significant number of local businesses were represented at the kickoff, which was emceed by Steve McKay and Chris Facchini from WLBZ-2 of Bangor.
“We are so thankful for agencies like United Way,” McKay said.
Those seeking more information on United Way’s member programs or the 2011 drive can log onto www.unitedwayem.org.