Sedalia Pettis County United Way (SPCUW) celebrated its 2016-17 campaign on Friday at Best Western, 32nd and Limit, with an awards luncheon honoring those who made it possible for the campaign to raise $454,175 to help fund the 21 worthwhile agencies, or service providers, that United Way serves.

Randy Kirby

Chairman Phillip Mefford was in charge of the "Give Where You Live" campaign:

"It was a great campaign. The United Way is a great organization. It's great to interact with the community, all the businesses and the agency partners who help grow Pettis County," Mefford said, who added that he first got involved with United Way almost 35 years ago when General Cable (Alcan) Plant Manager Ray Haley promoted UW by giving him a campaign card.

"I've seen the impact (of United Way), I've seen where people have taken a hand-up and in turn gave it back to other people. And that's what United Way is all about, building up Pettis County and growing people," Mefford stated.

Although the campaign fell short of its $506,250 goal, "we certainly couldn't be working for a better cause," Mefford said during his speech, adding that 42 donors during this campaign either increased their giving, or were new to the campaign, which kicked off Sept. 10 in Liberty Park.

The campaign is split into multiple divisions, including industry, business, professional, education, government and residential. According to the SPCUW's site, industry accounts for the bulk of the donations at an estimated 66 percent.

Incoming Campaign Chairman Ben McFarlin said he was excited about getting started on next year's fund-raising campaign. "I look forward to sharing some of what I've used to run my campaign at Tyson's with the rest of the community so we can all come together and raise even more money for next year," he said.

McFarlin was presented with a pair of enhanced walking shoes from outgoing Campaign Chair Mefford to help with all the extra steps that will be taken next year.

United Way's non-monetary goal for the past three years has been to have a positive community impact, according to Presidential Appointee and Community Impact Committee Chair Chris Stewart. That impact involves increasing the median household income in Pettis County, and a focus on education through readiness for school, increasing third grade reading proficiency and keeping school attendance as high as possible.

The United Way was awarded two Community Impact Grants in 2016, Stewart noted. Community Impact is a grant process for allocating dollars into local programs and initiatives that address education, health and income, which are the building blocks for opportunity and improving lives, according to the SPCUW's website.

"We solve problems through the partnership of our donors," Stewart emphasized, "and these are not easy problems we're trying to address."

Presidential Appointee Barry Henderson noted that the second annual Cram the Closet held in July event was a hand up, not a hand out. New car dealerships teamed up with United Way, and over 200 families were assisted with obtaining resources to help get them to work or school. "It's all about removing stumbling blocks," Henderson said.

Special recognition was given to WAFB Airman Brandon Garneau and Sedalian Terri Paul for their dedication to volunteering to help improve the quality of life for Pettis County residents.

Service awards were presented to Tammi Kreisel, Betty Hopkins, Dave Clippert and Ann Graff.

Bothwell Regional Health Center earned the Spirit Award, while Child Safe and US Bank had 100 percent employee participation. The Highest Per Capita Giving Award went to ProEnergy, with each employee giving an average of $394.93.

The Highest Giving Award was presented to Tyson Foods, Inc., with a total of $112,356.75.

Smithton R-6 School District earned a plaque for Outstanding Performance in this year's campaign in the Educational Division.

Those attending Friday's luncheon were treated to salad, soup and spuds.

In the top photo: Those who gave $1,000 or more to the 2016-17 United Way campaign were recognized with the Gold Award and posed for a quick photo after the luncheon. Gold Award contributors donated $396,600 to the campaign.