Members of the Dobyns-Bennett Air Force JROTC present the colors Thursday. Ned Jilton II photo.
KINGSPORT — The United Way of Greater Kingsport kicked off its annual community fund-raising campaign Thursday afternoon with some patriotic flair and many comments in honor of Sept. 11.
The kickoff took place at the Kingsport Renaissance Center. This year’s campaign theme is “Live United,” a call to action to give, advocate and volunteer, said Ron Bennett, the 2008 campaign chair.
“We want to celebrate the thousands of people who bring this call to action to life in our community every day,” Bennett said. “We give back when we can, and we live united.”
The goal of the 2008 fund-raising drive, which runs from Sept. 11 to Nov. 20, is $3.45 million — the same goal as last year. The 42 Pacesetter companies ran their fund-raising campaigns last month and are striving for a 5 percent increase over last year’s amount.
Bennett said the United Way made a conscious decision to keep the goal the same this year even though the need is greater.
“We realize that many families are cutting back on discretionary spending due to high gas prices and the ripple effect on other consumer goods. However, we are hearing from our agency programs that the demand for their services is also increasing for the same reasons,” Bennett said. “Because of the increase in need, those of us who can really need to continue supporting United Way at the same or an even greater level.”
The United Way provides funding to 41 programs within 28 member agencies, which serve more than 30,000 people in the community.
According to the United Way, some examples of the greater need include a 15.5 percent increase in the cost for Meals on Wheels to provide meals to homebound people and an increase from 40 percent to 70 percent capacity use at the Salvation Army shelter.
“We are all here to serve the community, family and friends,” Bennett said.
Miles Burdine, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce president, spoke about how appropriate it was to kick off the campaign on Sept. 11 — Patriot Day — and that we all should never forget the events that transpired that day.
“I’m not here to talk about terrorism. I’m here to talk about hope … about making a difference and the ability of everyone to help others and to bring about a positive change,” Burdine said. “You don’t have to be a celebrity, or anybody famous. You can make a difference in the lives of many regardless of your age or sex or what your abilities are.”
For more information contact the United Way at 378-3409.