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United Way campaign targets $1.5 million for Fairbanks area

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Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 11:57 pm | Updated: 10:37 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The 2012 United Way of the Tanana Valley campaign is all about making choices for the community and each other, this year’s co-chairs said Tuesday at the campaign kickoff at the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“Our choice is to make this a better and stronger community,” said co-chair Joane Johnson, who already has visited each of the 20 United Way of the Tanana Valley member agencies that provide community-wide human services.

Johnson knows from personal experience how important that can be, since she turned to a United Way agency during her first pregnancy for important nutritional support.

Since its earliest days, Fairbanksans have always helped one another out in times of crisis or hard times, noted co-chair John Ringstad, a lifelong Alaskan.

And to continue that benevolent attitude, the United Way campaign co-chairs are challenging Interior residents to raise $1.5 million.

This year’s strategy for success, Ringstad said, is to engage corporations, individuals and businesses “to get everybody to give a little.”

“This is not a hard sell, but just the opposite,” Ringstad said. “We as a community can take care of our own. All of us at different times of our lives, need help somewhere, somehow.”

The enthusiasm to reach the 2012 challenge goal was demonstrated when former United Way chairpersons, board members, volunteers and donors were called in succession to stand up. The entire audience was soon on its feet.

Mike Kolasa, Literacy Council of Alaska executive director, spoke as a contributor and said he has three reasons for giving to United Way.

“One, it’s an essential discipline for me to become the type of man I want to be, and experience the joy of giving.

“Two, there is an incredible need in this community,” he said. “And three, my agency benefits and we’re able to do great things, changing lives through literacy.”

Ringstad and Johnson said they are full of ideas to involve businesses that want to hold United Way fundraising campaigns.

“We will make it easy and we will make it fun to take your money,” Johnson joked.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.’s workplace United Way events were mentioned as an example. The events are frequent throughout the year and include Torch camps from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez and chili cookoffs, car washes, bake and dessert sales.

The 20 United Way member agencies are reviewed annually by volunteer board members for good business practices, financial stability, and whether they are meeting their program goals. United Way donors also have the option to direct their contributions to any of the member agencies or any nonprofit with 501(c)3 tax-exempt status around the state.

In a final plea to the kickoff audience, Johnson requested that everyone talk about supporting United Way to friends, associates and even their hairdresser, as she did recently.

“You are our guardian angels for the community,” she said.

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.

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