Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script Wednesday, Dec. 5, at SentryWorld in Stevens Point.
The script featured a dramatic ending in which an organization that partners with 34 agencies in Portage County to help them improve education, income and health of the people living in Portage County receives a last-day donation to help it surpass its goal, after it appeared it would fall short by $50,000.
That organization – the United Way of Portage County – had been working since the end of August to raise $2,675,000 to distribute to those 34 partner agencies, doubling its efforts in the past two weeks after preliminary estimates showed it was $135,000 short of its goal.
On the morning of the campaign’s end, United Way 2012 campaign chair Pat Wesenberg, president and CEO of Central City Credit Union in Stevens Point, United Way Executive Director Sue Wilcox, and other United Way staff members and volunteers resigned themselves to the fact they had only raised $2,625,981, which was more than the $2,612,000 raised in the 2011 campaign.
“After 19 years of reaching our goal here in Portage County, I could not be more excited to share this number, even knowing that we didn’t hit our target,” Wesenberg told people at the Dec. 5 Victory Celebration at SentryWorld after revealing it had appeared the United Way missed its campaign goal for the first time in nearly two decades.
“It represents something much more than a number. It represents hard work and dedication, a community coming together for the common good, and individuals and businesses pulling together to define us as a community,” she said. “I couldn’t personally be more proud of what we accomplished.”
But the story doesn’t end here, she told people. “In true Portage County fashion, after 9 a.m. this morning, we received a very special phone call,” she said, introducing Sentry Insurance CEO Peter McPartland.
“I told them in honor of Sentry’s year-long celebration of being in Stevens Point for 100 years, Sentry would make a special donation in honor of those 100 years of $100,000 to United Way of Portage County,” McPartland told the audience, which broke into applause.
It’s one of many miracles Wesenberg said she witnessed with the campaign. “What you just witnessed, it happened throughout the campaign,” she said. “People stepped up who really gave until it hurt this year. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that. For programs like Community Industries and Community Partners, it means the world.”
Wilcox, who McPartland introduced as the “Crier-in-Chief” because she is well known for crying in joy at the annual Victory Celebration, said the donation was a miracle. “Can you imagine anything turning out like this?” she said.
“It’s an absolute miracle what you people do and what corporations like Sentry and the hundreds of other corporations that give of their time and their talent and their resources. Today is a true celebration and we could not be more grateful to each and every one of you. I hope you know that. You worked so hard to make this campaign a success.”
Although the campaign has officially ended, people can still donate by reaching out to the United Way office at 1100 Centerpoint Drive in Stevens Point; by calling 715-341-6740; via the website at www.unitedwaypoco.org; or by sending a check to 1100 Centerpoint Drive, Suite 302, Stevens Point, WI 54481.
Money collected will be distributed to 34 partner agencies to help the United Way complete its mission, which is to inspire people to work together to improve lives and build stronger communities by focusing on education, income and health of the people living in Portage County.