During the United Way of the Plains’ kickoff breakfast Thursday morning, president Pat Hanrahan spoke about how he had recently seen a family of four in downtown Wichita.
“I pull up and I see this typical-looking family,” Hanrahan said. “The dad looks dejected. The mom standing behind him is holding a baby. A little boy is sitting next to his dad.
“Everything looked typical until I saw the grocery cart. Everything they had was piled into that grocery cart …
“We have a lot of people hurting in Wichita. … There is a United Way agency out there to help them. That’s why we have to succeed. That’s why we have to do it.”
Hanrahan said this year’s fundraising goal is $15.4 million, down slightly from the $15.6 million raised a year ago. This year, 87 programs and 35 nonprofit agencies in Sedgwick and Butler counties will benefit from United Way money.
Hanrahan said after Thursday’s event at Century II that he recognizes Wichita is still experiencing a tough economic environment. That’s why the campaign goal was decreased $200,000.
“We took into account we are losing Boeing and there are more layoffs in the area,” Hanrahan said.
“We had good campaign growth in 2006 and 2007, but then the recession hit,” he said. “The last decade has been tough, but the last five have been exceptionally tough. While this campaign has shown some encouraging signs, the depths of the recession is still here.”
Scott Ernest, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft, is chairing this year’s campaign, which is using the slogan “Help Us Help More.” Earlier this summer, 14 companies raised $376,000 during the United Way’s Pacesetter campaign.
The keynote speaker at Thursday’s kickoff breakfast was auto racing owner and former driver Chip Ganassi. He told the 750 people who attended “how lucky we are to be part of the United Way. Every city is affected by United Way in the numbers of people who are helped.”
A Ganassi team race car, which is sponsored by Cessna, served as a backdrop as Ganassi spoke. He said his winning philosophy was to approach each race with a team attitude.
“Let’s win the race before we get there,” he said. “You are the catalyst to make it happen.”