The United Way of Summit County is hoping to raise $11.61 million this year in its annual fundraising campaign.
That would exceed the record of $11.6 million raised in 2005 and would be a 2 percent increase over last year’s $11.4 million raised. That’s a reachable goal “considering the economic tailwinds we’ve been experiencing,” Nicholas V. Browning, chairman of the United Way/Red Cross Campaign, told about 300 business and community leaders Wednesday at a kickoff breakfast.
Browning, president and chief executive officer of FirstMerit bank’s Akron region, said the 260,000 people in Summit County who were helped last year by United Way programs thanked the community for its generosity.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, who introduced Browning at the Knight Breakfast at Quaker Station in Akron, said it would not be easy to raise money for programs such as United Way without the leadership of people in Summit County.
“We’re a leader in the state for giving per capita,” Plusquellic said.
The Knight Breakfast was established in 1954 by the late Beacon Journal publisher and editor John S. Knight as a way for leaders to get a preview of the upcoming United Way campaign.
The keynote speaker was Anthony J. Alexander, president and CEO of FirstEnergy Corp., parent company of Ohio Edison.
Alexander told the crowd that “charitable giving and volunteerism are very simply the right thing to do. Whether through personal contributions of time or resources or business support, the work done by our United Way agencies is important to all of us.”
FirstEnergy encourages its employees to give both time and donations to charities, Alexander said.
“These are not easy times. Even though we’ve seen some signs of improvement in unemployment rates and other economic indicators, we are not yet through the economic crisis that impacts all of us. And, the fact is we still have too many families in our region that continue to struggle.
“For example, almost half the children in the city of Akron live in poverty. Just as troubling, more than 52,000 adults in Summit County lack a high school education — and 18 percent of adults read at less than a fifth-grade level. Over the years, the United Way has been instrumental in addressing these challenges,” he said.
Alexander said it’s important for community members to pass on the spirit of volunteerism and generosity to the next generation.
“Every day we show those around us what we value most by how we spend our time, resources and energy. By passing on this spirit of giving and volunteerism, we can show the next generation that giving back to our communities is the right thing to do,” he said.