BELOIT—The United Way Blackhawk Region announced its campaign goal of $2.4 million and recognized heroes in the COVID-19 pandemic at its 2020 United Way Day of Caring and Campaign kickoff held Thursday on Zoom.

Special awards went to First National Bank and Trust Company, ABC Supply Co. Manager of Financial Analysis and Forecasting Amy Lokrantz and to Finding Opportunities to Collaborate and Unite Services (FOCUS), a collaboration of service providers in Janesville which identify gaps in programs for the homeless.

Approximately 200 United Way benefactors attended the virtual event, which included a reveal of the 2020 campaign video, award winner acceptance speeches and catchy tunes.

United Way Blackhawk Region Board Chair Al Hulick announced a $2.4 million fundraising campaign goal.

“This is not a target, it’s a lifeline. It is our challenge to the Blackhawk Region. One that each of us has to step up to meet. If we fall short, our programs will fall short. If programs fall short, our communities can’t get the help they need,” Hulick said.

As a safe alternative to traditional volunteer projects, United Way Blackhawk Region President and CEO Mary Fanning-Penny said members of the Board of Directors would distribute Day of Caring ‘Care Kits’ to nearly 50 nonprofit organizations across the Blackhawk Region after the virtual Campaign Kick-off. The Care Kits included items such as masks, hand sanitizer, contactless thermometers and more.

Through the generosity of a sponsor, Alliant Energy, United Way also announced the upcoming installation of the first two Born Learning Trails in the Blackhawk Region. A trail will be installed in Beloit at Turtle Creek Park and also at Bond Park in Janesville. These will be the first of what United Way hopes will be many Born Learning Trails in many communities across the Blackhawk Region.

Beloit City Manager and United Way board member, Lori Curtis Luther, in a recorded message talked about the trails, which provide a free opportunity for families’ to boost children’s literacy. Ten colorful signs in both English and Spanish, give prompts for simple games.

The annual LIVE UNITED Award, presented to a company that displays exceptional support for United Way through its workplace campaign, as well as volunteerism, was presented to First National Bank and Trust Company.

“In addition to supporting United Way financially, members of the First National Bank and Trust Company team are strong advocates and volunteers of United Way’s mission serving on the board of directors, executive committee, and campaign cabinet,” said United Way Blackhawk Region Resource Development Director Rick West. “We are so grateful to partners at First National for setting the bar so high and modeling the impact of a committed tone at the top.”

Since United Way Blackhawk Region’s unification, the workplace campaign at First National Bank and Trust has grown in dollars pledged by 62%. The bank consistently has between 50-60% of its employees pledge a gift to United Way Blackhawk Region.

In the 2019 community campaign, this was the seventh largest campaign in the region based on total dollars pledged.

First National Bank and Trust Company President and CEO David McCoy accepted the award. He said it was an honor and recognition of all the employees’ hard work. He also praised United Way for stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manager of Financial Analysis and Forecasting at ABC Supply Co., and former United Way Blackhawk Region board member, Amy Lokrantz was honored with the Geraldine Hedberg Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Amy Lokrantz does not miss an opportunity to encourage us to continuously improve by sparking innovation, imagination and critical thinking,” Fanning-Penny said.

Lokrantz is a year-round champion for United Way’s mission with the ABC Supply Co. team. She is a seasoned participant in United Way’s volunteer-driven Community Grant review process, stepping forward to steward donor dollars since 2012. In 2018, she completed two, three-year terms on the United Way’s Board of Directors. During her tenure, Lokrantz provided financial expertise in the role of treasurer for three years, served on the executive committee for four years and remains on the building and property committee.

Upon receiving her award, Lokrantz encouraged people to give, advocate and volunteer.

The United Way Blackhawk Region honored FOCUS with this year’s “Excellence in Advocacy” Award. FOCUS is a coalition of service providers identifying resource gaps in programs for the homeless.

To learn more, visit United Way Blackhawk Region’s newly redesigned website at LiveUnitedBr.org. People can make a pledge as part of their workplace campaign; mail a check to United Way at 205 N. Main St., Suite 101, Janesville, WI 53545; give online at LiveUnitedBR.org/GIVE or text to BLACKHAWK to 41444.