United Way of the Plains exceeds this year's fundraising goal

By AMY RENEE LEIKER

11/18/2011 7:04 AM

11/18/2011 7:04 AM

The United Way of the Plains announced Thursday that it beat its 2011 fundraising goals, collecting more than $15.2million to help local nonprofits.

Alicia Salazar, 26, knows first-hand how the yearly fundraiser helps: She left an abusive marriage with the support of Wichita Women’s Initiative Network, an education-based program that helps women leave violent relationships.

The group is funded in part by United Way.

“United Way (also) gives to the smaller organizations that people don’t really know about,” Salazar said Thursday. She is now the production supervisor for Women’s Initiative Network.

“The fact that they (United Way) took the time out to help people that they don’t even know is phenomenal.”

Nearly 1,000 people gathered at Century II Convention Hall for a luncheon to hear campaign chair Linda Brantner announce the total dollars raised from the two-month campaign. The total — $15.2million — beat the United Way’s goal by more than $120,000.

United Way provides funding to more than 80 programs at 37 nonprofit organizations in Sedgwick and Butler counties.

Last year, the fundraiser garnered just over $15million. Despite the sluggish economy and two years of giving fewer dollars to area nonprofits, the United Way increased its fundraising goal by $100,000 over last year’s target of $15million.

"Our enemy has been three years of recession. ... We’re tired of it," United Way president Pat Hanrahan said Thursday.

"Let’s face it,” he continued, repeating the campaign’s theme. “Times are tough, but we are tougher. You are tougher."

The campaign, which kicked off on Sept. 15, wrapped up Thursday. Most of the money raised comes from employee pledges and corporate contributions.

Companies contributing more than $1million _ called the Million Dollar Circle _ were Cessna Aircraft Company with $1.08million and Hawker Beechcraft Corp.’s employees donating $1.1million. Spirit Aerosystems Inc. topped contributions with $2.15million.

Employers raising between $150,000 and $999,999 were Boeing, Bombardier Learjet, Cargill, the city of Wichita, Davis-Moore Auto Group, Intrust Bank, Koch Industries, QuikTrip, Wichita public schools, Via Christi Health and Westar Energy.

American Red Cross Midway-Kansas Chapter receives about 33 percent of its operating budget from United Way, said Miah Schneider, Red Cross’s development director.

Last year, the local chapter helped more than 30,000 Sedgwick, Butler, Cowley and Sumner county residents through its disaster services, senior medical transportation and family services programs — all funded by the United Way.

“The United Way helps a large organization like the Red Cross feel confident they can move on and provide,” Schneider said, citing a record number disasters, such as house fires, responded to so far this year by the Red Cross.

“We’re thrilled that they exceeded their goal. ... It goes to show how tremendously supportive this community is of nonprofit agencies.”

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