2016 campaign off to a strong start

Heart of Missouri United Way announced the start of its 2016 community campaign Friday morning with a kickoff event at Shelter Insurance. More than 200 were in attendance for the festivities, which featured a Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and guest speaker Dr. Peter Stiepleman, superintendent for Columbia Public Schools. The event also featured a supplies drive for dropping off donated items to benefit 23 United Way supported agencies.

Mike and Sarah Messer, this year’s campaign chairs, surprised the crowd by announcing that United Way has already secured $600,000, or 20 percent, of its total $3 million fundraising goal. Several of the more than 200 local businesses that will run workplace campaigns this fall to benefit United Way began their fundraising efforts prior to Friday’s kickoff, contributing to the amount already raised.

“Sarah and I are really honored to serve as campaign chairs this year,” said Mike Messer. “It was great to see so many members of our community come out to support United Way today, and it was great to be able to announce that we’re already at 20 percent of our goal. We’re looking forward to a fantastic campaign.”

The $3 million campaign goal is a 2.5 percent increase over the total amount raised by Heart of Missouri United Way in 2015, which supported 33 nonprofit agencies in Boone, Howard and Cooper counties this year.

This is the second year the annual kickoff event has included the supplies drive. Donated items included school supplies, diapers and canned goods. Heart of Missouri United Way also added an opportunity this year for businesses to “adopt an agency” for the supplies drive, with 12 businesses participating. Additionally, Columbia Public Schools students decorated several colorful banners and signs for the event, which was sponsored by Shelter Insurance, Joe Machens Autogroups, KOMU-TV, CenturyLink and Y107 FM.

“We’re grateful for everyone who dropped off supplies during the drive today,” said Andrew Grabau, United Way executive director. “The supplies drive demonstrates that there are multiple ways to give and support our 33 partner agencies, and we strive to provide the community with easy opportunities to participate and be involved in that support.”

The Heart of Missouri United Way campaign will run through the end of January 2017.