Many arrived by 8 a.m., others would be working the afternoon shift, and some would worked all day to paint, clean, build and renew. They are working in teams from area companies, schools, families and organizations. They cleaned up county parks, stocked shelves in food pantries, did yard work and maintenance at homes and human service agencies, and scoured beaches as part of Ottawa County’s largest annual volunteer event.
When all the work is done, more than $100,000 in labor support will have been contributed to the community in just one day.
Shannon Morton, director of volunteerism for the local United Way, noted that the number of volunteers and projects continues to increase.
“For the 12th year, we exceeded our previous year in number of volunteers and amount of work done,” she said.
Nearly 500 of the volunteers gathered at NASCAR RV Park in Grand Haven Township to enjoy a volunteer appreciation lunch, which was donated by A.D. Bos Vending Services of Holland and Hillshire Brands of Zeeland. A few also enjoyed chair massages donated by campaign volunteer Wendy Schweifler of Bod-e-nomics.
With a captive audience under the pavilion, Greater Ottawa County United Way kicked off its 2012-13 Community Campaign, “Be an Everyday Hero.” Campaign co-chairpersons Budd Brink, chief financial officer of Grand Haven-based Shape Corp.; and Melinda Brink, retired assistant superintendent of curriculum services for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, announced a campaign goal of $2.3 million. This year’s campaign thermometer signs placed throughout the community will also show a “Community Need” of $2.8 million.
“Based on campaign growth over the past several years, we believe we can raise $2.3 million in this year’s campaign,” Budd Brink said.
Melinda Brink added, “However, $2.8 million is what our community actually needs to meet the community impact goals established by United Way’s strategic plan. We want to get the message out that, with more participation by everyone in Ottawa County, we cannot only solve today’s problems, but we can work to prevent problems from happening in the future.”
Budd Brink noted that, in the last campaign, 10,000 donors gave. “But there are 110,000 working adults in Ottawa County," he said, "and if everyone who did not give last year would consider giving just $1 per week, we could raise an additional $5 million."
The Tri-Cities leadership challenge, by an anonymous donor, has been renewed for the 10th year. This is a $30,000 challenge match for new and increased leadership gifts ($500 per household) from Tri-Cities residents. In 2011-12, $40,325 in new and increased leadership gifts were tallied from Tri-Cities residents, handily meeting the challenge. In the previous nine campaigns, $505,969 was raised against a challenge of $255,000, for a total of $760,969.
Greater Ottawa County United Way President Patrick Moran said that, while the dollars raised are important, an even greater emphasis belongs on the differences those dollars make in the lives of people.
“Education, Financial Stability, Health, and Basic Needs are the building blocks of a better life,” he said, describing United Way’s areas of focus. “Right now, 62 effective programs of 42 local nonprofit agencies are changing the lives of tens of thousands of our neighbors because our community supports United Way."