United Way sets goal of $535,000

United Way kicks off campaign with annual breakfast

BIG RAPIDS — Rise and shine — it’s fundraising time.

The 2016 Mecosta-Osceola United Way fundraising campaign officially began on Friday, Sept. 23, at the annual breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Big Rapids.

With representatives of area businesses and United Way agencies in the audience, Executive Director Betty Seeyle announced this year’s goal: $535,000.

“Last year’s campaign raised $533,557, which was over our goal of $525,000,” she said. “You guys did a fabulous job, and we’ve put almost $11 million into the community in the last 25 years.”

Of the funds United Way distributes, 75 percent of the money goes toward critical needs and 25 percent to youth mentoring. Seeyle made special mention of the Pacesetter campaigns — fundraising efforts by businesses in advance of the official campaign — which all have exceeded their goals.

“They’ve all gone over their goals, so they’ve set the pace for this year for the rest of us,” she said.

She also recognized the top five campaigns from last year and presented the Live United award to the employees of Yoplait, which has been the top fundraiser for many years. While the award has gone to an individual in the past, this year Yoplait employees were recognized as a group for all they’ve done for United Way over the past 20 years.

“Yoplait has always had a stretch goal, which is $5,000 to $10,000 over their regular goal, which is always more than they raised the year before,” Seeyle said. “Last year, the Yoplait employees, with the General Mills one-to-one match, raised  33 percent of our overall campaign and had 65 percent of their employees give.”

To finish off the morning and leave the area business campaign team leaders on an inspirational note, the keynote speaker was Melissa Jensen, who will take ownership of the latest Mecosta County Habitat for Humanity house upon its completion.

Jensen, who moved 26 times by the age of 15, wanted more stability for her children. She wanted to be able to give them roots and true membership in a community as opposed to just passing through one. With the help of Habitat, she now can provide that feeling for her daughter, she told the audience.

“I’m overjoyed to have this house,” Jensen said, relating how when it finally felt like everything was coming together for her, “the bottom fell out” and she and her daughter experienced a family loss and ended up having to move again.

“It’s hard to pull yourself together after it feels like the bottom fell out of your life, but you have to, especially if you’ve got your kid looking at you and wondering, ‘What’s going on?’” Jensen said. “I started thinking about ‘What can I do to make things better for myself?’ and ‘What can I do to make things better for my kid?’”

Jensen came in contact with Habitat and began the process of becoming a home-owner.

“This house is just a life changer for us,” she said. “This house is the foundation of our life as part of this community. We’re not just living in Big Rapids — we’re from here.”