United Way Central Alberta CEO Robert Robert Mitchell addresses the audience during the launch of the 2012 United Way campaign at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer on Thursday.

United way sets lofty goal

United Way of Central Alberta has set an ambitious $1.99-million goal this year and hopes to snap a three-year streak of coming up just short of targets.

United Way of Central Alberta has set an ambitious $1.99-million goal this year and hopes to snap a three-year streak of coming up just short of targets.

Campaign co-chair Buck Buchanan expressed confidence that the latest drive — which has already raised $151,565 — will top the mark.

“I think (co-chair John Knoch) and myself think that it’s very do-able and probably, hopefully we can exceed that,” said Buchanan, following the campaign kickoff that drew 400 people to the Sheraton Red Deer on Thursday.

This year’s goal is up from last year despite the 2011 campaign falling $25,000 short of the $1.96 million goal.

Buchanan said that this campaign will approach past supporters who have dropped off in recent years and encourage them to contribute again.

United Way’s research has shown recent campaigns are raising almost the same amount of money but from half as many donors.

Buchanan said a lot of that has to do with the economic slowdown.

“But in a lot of instances, maybe we’ve taken them for granted a little bit, too. A lot of times it’s just the ‘ask,’” said the Red Deer city councillor, who donned a kilt, cowboy hat and United Way T-shirt to rally the crowd.

“If we can get out and then make the ask, possibly we can get some of the people back.”

These days, he added, many companies are inundated with fundraising requests, so United Way will be making sure the community knows about its contributions.

Last year, 107,000 people in Central Alberta were helped by programs and services supported by United Way.

Knoch said 19,000 youth and 17,000 seniors were helped through last year’s fundraising campaign. Another 16,000 people received clothing, shelter and other support.

“Despite the wealth in our region many people have unmet needs,” he told the crowd.

Several inspirational videos were shown to the crowd, including one in which recipients of United Way support thanked donors personally.

Former David Thompson Health Region president John Vogelzang and Red Deer College past-president Ron Woodward also delivered addresses.

Woodward evoked hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his adage that you miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take,

“Take Gretzky’s advice: Inspire change in your community by your actions,” he said.

United Way of Central Alberta was established in 1965 and has invested more than $22 million in communities.

For information go to www.caunitedway.ca.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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