BANGOR, Maine — The hundreds of people who attended the United Way of Eastern Maine’s campaign kickoff on Thursday at the Hollywood Casino Raceway grandstand in Bass Park personified the United Way spirit of giving, advocating and volunteering. Most wore T-shirts with “Live United” in block letters on the front and on the back an image of Atlas holding up the world. They responded with lively applause and cheers to event speakers.
The campaign’s goal is to raise $2.1 million. Soon employees at many businesses in Maine will be asked to “kick in” their bit to help achieve that goal.
As flags fluttered and the sun dodged intermittent clouds scudding across the sky, agencies that benefit from United Way funding, programs and services paraded around the racetrack, including representatives from Greater Old Town Community Health, the Bangor Y, Spruce Run, Literacy Volunteers, Wellsprings and Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, to name a few.
Emcees Chris Facchini and Melissa Kim of WLBZ-TV served as anchors for the event.
Bob Potts of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. said in his opening remarks that the United Way’s goal is to help 55,000 people in the next year. “That’s the reason I live united,” he said, echoing the slogan on his blue T-shirt.
Andy Hamilton, chairman of the United Way of Eastern Maine board of directors, said, “We have an excellent opportunity to exceed last year’s level of giving.” In his remarks he quoted Helen Keller — “The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all” — and stressed the importance of working as a team. “Together everyone achieves more,” he said.
United Way of Eastern Maine president John Kuropchak, who has logged 35 years with the agency, said, “I’m always impressed and moved by the commitment at United Way kickoffs.” He gave examples of the service provided through United Way last year, including the collection of 90,000 pounds of food that provided 70,000 meals for those in need, pointing out that through its programs and services, “United Way creates lasting change.”
Shirar Patterson, United Way vice president for Community Impact, said United Way of Eastern Maine is involved in 70 programs in 42 agencies across five Maine counties.
University of Maine Black Bears football coach Jack Cosgrove, who spoke last, chucked miniature footballs into the crowd before he talked about the need for volunteers to mentor, tutor and and read to children who need an extra boost to succeed in school. “A math tutor impacted my life when I was in junior high,” he said. “Everyone has something they can share with a child.”
The United Way of Eastern Maine is in the process of recruiting 1,000 volunteer mentors, tutors and readers over the next three years, Cosgrove said.
Sponsors of the event were Darling’s; which sent its Ice Cream for a Cause van to make dessert available and raise funds for United Way; RH Foster; L.L. Bean; Hannaford, which provided lunches for attendees; Hollywood Casino; James Daigle Photography; Bronson Communications and AMICUS.
To learn how to give, advocate or volunteer in service to the United Way, visit www.unitedwayem.org.