Nonprofit thanks supporters at celebration

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Local United Way resource development Director Rick West and President and CEO Mary Fanning-Penny present at Wednesday morning's breakfast in the Eclipse Center, which was a celebration to say thank you to donors and volunteers.

BELOIT – Expressing thanks to donors and dedicated volunteers was the focus this morning at United Way Blackhawk Region’s annual LIVE UNITED Celebration, Honoring the Spirit of Community, held at the Eclipse Center in Beloit.

“This annual event gives us an opportunity to thank the thousands of donors and more than 900 volunteers who provide vital financial and human resources for United Way’s 42 local nonprofit Program Partners,” said United Way Blackhawk Region 2015 Board Chair Phil Smith. “I am proud of the hard work being done by the programs United Way supports and the positive momentum in the region.”

The United Way’s 2015 campaign resulted in pledges from the community of $2.5 million, which is 89 percent of the announced campaign goal of $2.82 million.

“Despite falling short of our goal, we will be able to honor the $1.94 million dollar grant commitment we made to our Program Partners this year,” said United Way Blackhawk Region President and CEO Mary Fanning-Penny. “As responsible stewards, we will work to grow donor dollars, so we may continue to meet the needs of families in our region.”

“United Way adds its sincere thanks to inspirational volunteers Kim Hendricks and Milly Babcock, who shared their expertise and enthusiasm as 2015 Campaign Champions,” said United Way Blackhawk Region 2016 Board Chair Jon Schlemmer. “The support from these community-minded leaders was instrumental in engaging new workplace campaigns, applauding the dedication of Leadership Circle donors and building resources needed to create positive change in the Blackhawk Region.”

Kim Hendricks retired in January 2015 as vice president of ABC Supply Co. and is a former president of Mule-Hide Products. Milly Babcock, along with her husband David, operated family-owned Babcock Outdoor Advertising for nearly two decades.

The United Way announced the awarding of more than 70 campaign awards to local companies and organizations, including its most prestigious award, the Cornerstone Award, presented to companies that hosted employee campaigns that exceeded $100,000 in pledges. Receiving the Cornerstone Award this year are, ABC Supply Co., Beloit Health System, Mercy Health System and Regal. Festival Foods, which opened in 2015 in Janesville, received the Emerging Campaign Award, recognizing the grocer, and more than 100 of its employees, who pledged their financial support of the local United Way.

Sarah Williams, executive director of Edgerton Community Outreach, was honored as this year’s recipient of the Excellence in Advocacy Award. Williams’ tenure with the nonprofit agency began in 2002, during a time of restructuring. Today, thousands of people are served by ECO’s three housing programs, a food pantry, breakfast program, utility assistance, and Thrift Store that generates more than $100,000 annually.

Rick Mueller, co-owner of Jax Custom Printing, received the Geraldine Hedberg Volunteer of the Year Award. Mueller donates his time to several local organizations, including ECHO, The Literacy Connection, School District of Janesville, Janesville Noon Rotary, and United Way’s Brand Strategy and Marketing Committee.

The annual LIVE UNITED Award, presented to a company that displays exceptional support for the United Way through its workplace campaign as well as volunteerism, was presented to the local accounting and consulting firm Baker Tilly. For the fourth straight year, Baker Tilly had 100 percent participation by its employees in the annual United Way community campaign, increasing its pledges in 2015 by 8 percent. Their commitment to volunteerism is evidenced by the firm allowing a third of its workforce to lend a hand at a United Way Day of Caring project in September for the Rock County Historical Society.

“Baker Tilly sets the standard for the term, exceptional support,” 2016 Board Chair Jon Schlemmer said. “In addition to their strong financial support, members of their staff hold key committee-level positions for the United Way, including leadership roles on the board of directors.”

Close to 300 United Way supporters attended the LIVE UNITED Celebration, which included a spirited performance by the Diamond Elite All-Star Cheerleaders. The squad of 7 to 12-year-olds, practices at the Merrill Community Center in Beloit, a United Way Program Partner.

In 2016, United Way Blackhawk Region continues to advance the common good by providing resources to 99 health and human services programs at 42 Program Partners in Rock County and northern Winnebago County, Ill.

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