United Way kicks off campaign in style

Published 8:20 am Saturday, August 30, 2014


United Way agency representatives compete against staff members in a lip syncing competition Friday during the United Way of West Central Mississippi 2014 Campaign Kickoff luncheon at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. About 200 people attended the “Campaign Show” themed luncheon.

A month ago the United Way announced it was revamping its campaign.

That was apparent in a joke-filled skit called “The Campaign Show” —  the theme Friday at the United Way of West Central Mississippi 2014 Campaign Kickoff luncheon.

Based on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” the event marked the official start of a yearly drive that raises money for the United Way to help fund more than 20 local partnering agencies.

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The goal of this year is $1.3 million, $100,000 more than the $1.2 million the organization raised in 2013.

Rich Feibelman, campaign chair of the United Way, said he hopes the new theme will increase community participation.

“This year’s campaign is committed to increasing the overall number of participants in order to leverage the message of United Way’s impact,” Feibelman said.

The theme at Friday’s event is not the only change to the slew of campaign events set for the fall.

“We have a special event scheduled for the very first time—a Pep rally at the Pemberton Square Mall on October 8th,” he said.

Though raising money is one of the foremost goals of the United Way, donating is not the only way to support the organization.

Michele Connelly, executive director of the United Way, said that volunteering is a great way to help out.

She said that hundreds of volunteers are reading to the third-grade students in the district in an effort to increase excitement about reading at an early age.

“We are bringing back TEEN Help in our local high schools,” Connelly said.

TEEN Help is a student volunteer program that pairs teens from local public, private, and parochial schools in the community with younger students for reading.

Another shift this year is in the role social media is expected to play, Connelly said.

“We are all learning how to become active participants in social media. Truthfully, this goal may have been the most challenging for some of us,” she said.

While there was much discussion on the goals of the campaign, the day’s events still had some lighter moments.

A lip-sync battle between the agency directors, volunteers and the campaign cabinet drew big laughs from the audience as each group sang and danced to Katy Perry’s “Roar” and the Beatles, “Twist and Shout.”

Fiebelman said he hopes this year’s campaign increases the number of participants in the United Way’s campaign.

“We hope you enjoy this concept, and that it encourages you to get behind this campaign perhaps in a way you never have before,” Fiebelman said.