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The United Way of Greater Toledo plans to kick off its annual fund-raising campaign today with Geoffrey Canada, a nationally known education and anti-poverty leader.
Organizers of this year's campaign aim to raise $13.8 million, the same goal they had for last year's effort, which raised about $13.6 million. United Way's highest fund-raising year was 1999, when the campaign pulled in donations of just more than $15 million.
Randy Oostra, president and chief executive officer of ProMedica and chairman of this year's campaign, said he believes the $13.8 million goal is achievable but added, "Of course, the need is much larger than that."
United Way's yearly campaign raises money to aid programs and nonprofit organizations aimed at improving education, income, and health, with a particular emphasis on graduating youth from high school.
With those goals in mind, the campaign has several "challenge" grants, under which local firms match donated funds designated for one of those three areas.
An education matching challenge grant sponsored by The Blade and BP-Husky Refining will match designations of $100 or more to education-focused areas dollar for dollar up to $100,000.
A similar health matching challenge grant, sponsored by HCR ManorCare, Mercy, University of Toledo Medical Center (the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital), and ProMedica, will match designations of $100 or more to health-focused areas dollar for dollar up to $100,000.
An income matching challenge grant sponsored by Hylant Group, Findley Davies Inc., and Fifth Third Bank will match designations of $100 or more to income-focused areas, dollar for dollar up to $50,000.
Today's kickoff breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg's Levis Commons is expected to attract about 600 people, about double the typical attendance for such events.
Organizers attribute the increase to the draw of Mr. Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, which has been labeled "one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time." The project encompasses nearly 100 blocks of central Harlem, and its mission is to end the cycle of generational poverty through education and intensive social services.
Jane Moore, United Way interim president and CEO, said Mr. Canada's work with school-community partnerships is very relevant to what the United Way is trying to do with the Toledo Public Schools. "Geoffrey has a marvelous message about communities wrapping themselves around schools to help them do what they need to do," she said.
In reference to the United Way's many programs and initiatives such as financial counseling, graduation coaches, and vision screenings for youth, Mr. Oostra said: "These are the people that are doing something."
Citing the goals of improved education, income, and health, he added, "That's pretty hard to argue with."
The majority of the annual campaign wraps up at the end of November. But, said spokesman Kelli Kreps, as the United Way moves toward year-round engagement with volunteering and advocating, donors can continue involvement with the organization outside the campaign window. A campaign total will be announced at the United Way's annual meeting in February, she said.
For more information, go to www.unitedwaytoledo.org.
Contact Kate Giammarise at: email@example.com or 419-724-6091 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.